Silicon Valley billionaire Sean Parker, who co-founded Napster and had an early role in Facebook, is taking on a new frontier: politics.
Parker, Matt Mahan, and a team of engineers and product specialists are unveiling Brigade
– an app that aims to get regular people talking about and debating political positions, Tech Crunch reports.
Brigade is a"beta," and the company has been courting feedback from 13,000 testers, Tech Crunch reports.
"When we were thinking about how to engage people in politics, most people say they don’t care about politics," Parker, famously portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the film about the start of Facebook,"The Social Network," tells Tech Crunch.
"They hate politicians. Congressional approval ratings are at a historic low. Trust in government is at a historic low. From one point of view, the system is about as broken as it can be."
"But when we interview users, we find that everyone has an issue they care about or something that they want to change in the world," he said.
Mahan, the former president and CEO of Causes
, tells Tech Crunch the mission of the company "is to empower people in their civic life and to have influence over the direction their society goes in by having them articulate and identify where they stand on issues uncover alignment with friends, get organized into groups of like-minded people and ultimately act collectively to shape the policies that affect their lives."
Here's how it works, according to Tech Crunch. For a trending topic Wednesday, "Trade With Asia," Brigade users can go through a series of cards with statements like, "Massive international trade agreements hurt small businesses in America," or "International trade deals expand opportunities for American goods abroad."
If the user takes a position, they'll see polling showing the percentage of Brigade users who are either for or against that side. For someone who doesn't have a firm opinion, they can flip through reasons arguing both sides.
The average Brigade user takes 90 positions, a high level of engagement, according to the company, Tech Crunch reports. Ultimately, a user will be able to create a profile they can compare against people they know.
"We’re a next-generation organization and we need next-generation tools," Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a Brigade launch partner, tells Politico.
"We were born on the Internet and our members are digital natives, but there’s a real generation gap with a lot of the tools that exist in Washington, and we’re excited about the potential that Brigade has to engage and activate people."
Brigade got underway in April 2014 with $9 million in funding, including from Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; it has 50 people on staff, including 30 engineers, with offices in San Francisco and Washington, Politico reports.
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