Protocol | Policy

Here's who'll be running the Democrats' tech for voters

Arthur Thompson will join the DNC as engineering head as the party hopes to push back on voting restrictions, in part through tech.

people in voting booths

Democrats are hiring a new engineering head to oversee the party's voting information and data files as Republican-backed state bills seek to limit voting.

Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Against a backdrop of new vote-restricting laws, the Democratic National Committee is bringing on a new head of engineering to oversee its platform for voter information, the data its candidates use to target their outreach and the organization's security.

Arthur Thompson was most recently chief technology officer at Jobcase, the social media site for job seekers. His hiring comes as Democrats try to combat a series of laws from Republicans in more than a dozen states that elections experts say would limit voting.

"I'm tremendously excited to join the DNC at a really exciting and pivotal time for the Democratic Party," Thompson said in a statement. "I hope to leverage my experience scaling teams and technology to continue to build on the DNC's successes and empower the reach of progressive leaders all across the country."

One of Thompson's top duties will be expanding IWillVote.com, where Americans can find out information about elections, check their registration status and, in some cases, register to vote.

In July, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a $25 million expansion of the DNC's "I Will Vote" campaign, citing Democratic investments "in the tools and technology to register voters, to educate voters, to turn out voters, to protect voters." The site is part of Democrats' efforts to get out the vote as state bills, largely inspired by the lie that Donald Trump won the presidential election, seek to limit voting. The bills impose ID requirements at the ballot box, widen restrictions on voting by mail, limit early voting and more. The Supreme Court in July also upheld new Republican-backed voting restrictions in Arizona, ruling against the DNC challenge.

"Protecting voting rights is not about any one discipline," said Nell Thomas, the DNC's chief technology officer. "It's not just for lawyers. It's not just for technologists. It's not just for politicians. It's a whole-of-society problem right now."

Thomas said Thompson will also be overseeing the DNC's software for lawyers to "track incidents of voter suppression," potentially for use in legal actions, as well as heading up technical work of growing, and gleaning insights from, the party's files on 300 million voters and non-voters.

That information is the lifeblood of modern campaigns at the local, state and federal level, on both sides of the aisle, as they try to get candidates' messages "into the ears and hands and eyes of as many voters as possible," Thomas said.

"A campaign is really a massive marketing program," she added. "We want to find out all the people who are online potentially shopping for candidates."

The files also allow campaigns to focus limited resources on targeting voters who are most receptive to messages. The DNC is also "making very large investments" in getting lists of non-voters in order to power registration efforts, Thomas said, and is developing tools to identify when people are purged from voter lists or labeled inactive so that the Democrats can potentially help them re-register if appropriate.

In addition, Thompson's portfolio will include cybersecurity, although the party is also searching for a new chief security officer. Democrats are still smarting from the endless 2016 news cycles about Hillary Clinton's emails, but those were released under public records laws. Both the DNC and Clinton's campaign chairman, meanwhile, suffered breaches from Russian government hackers and the subsequent leak of messages, which helped demonstrate the importance of security measures to the party.

"If there's one really important lesson that we've learned coming out of 2016, it's that we must remain vigilant constantly," Thomas said.

Protocol | Fintech

Crypto has a payment for order flow problem, too

The SEC is concerned about payment for order flow in stocks and options. But crypto, which it is struggling to regulate, is a "Wild West."

What are you paying for your bitcoin?

Illustration: Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

Two of the SEC's major concerns are payment for order flow, the potentially conflict-ridden system where retail brokers get paid by market makers for sending them orders, and cryptocurrencies, the largely unregulated digital tokens that are generating a booming market in speculative trading.

What if you put them together?

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

While it's easy to get lost in the operational and technical side of a transaction, it's important to remember the third component of a payment. That is, the human behind the screen.

Over the last two years, many retailers have seen the benefit of investing in new, flexible payments. Ones that reflect the changing lifestyles of younger spenders, who are increasingly holding onto their cash — despite reports to the contrary. This means it's more important than ever for merchants to take note of the latest payment innovations so they can tap into the savings of the COVID-19 generation.

Keep Reading Show less
Antoine Nougue,Checkout.com

Antoine Nougue is Head of Europe at Checkout.com. He works with ambitious enterprise businesses to help them scale and grow their operations through payment processing services. He is responsible for leading the European sales, customer success, engineering & implementation teams and is based out of London, U.K.

People

Theranos machines often failed tests, ex-employee testifies

The testimony from lab-worker-turned-whistleblower Erika Cheung could form a crucial piece of government prosecutors' fraud case against former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes.

The former Theranos headquarters in Palo Alto.

Photo: Andrej Sokolow via Getty Images

Did Theranos' blood-testing technology work? That was the key question prosecutors hammered away at as the fraud trial of former CEO Elizabeth Holmes continued Wednesday in a San Jose courtroom.

The company's proprietary Edison machines routinely failed quality control tests to the point that former lab employee Erika Cheung said she sometimes refused to run patient samples on the devices, she testified in court.

Keep Reading Show less
Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

Protocol | Policy

Big Tech builds bit by bit. The FTC is challenging that.

The FTC on Wednesday unveiled the findings of a study on the small deals that helped Big Tech grow without regulatory scrutiny, and took steps to treat such acquisitions more skeptically.

The FTC is putting more scrutiny on the small deals that built Big Tech.

Photo: Ian Hutchinson/Unsplash

The Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday took a dive into the kinds of deals that make Big Tech, well, big.

The commission unveiled findings from an investigation into hundreds of small acquisitions that companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google undertook with little government oversight, which helped those titanic businesses reach their current size and power. Some of those transactions evaded regulator scrutiny thanks to loopholes in the law, the report found.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Protocol | China

Tencent dominates digital donations in China. That’s the problem.

After building the only successful digital fundraising platform in China, Tencent's immense impact in the charity world raises questions about inequality, state censorship and platform responsibility.

Tencent's 99 Giving Day has grown into a behemoth, facilitating million of dollars' worth of donations on a yearly basis.

Image: Christopher T. Fong / Protocol

An hour before September 9, Eric, a nonprofit fundraising worker in southern China, was as frustrated as he'd been in months. It was way past his normal work hours, but he had just finished writing a few paragraphs he hoped to send to people tomorrow to ask for donations. He received his first blow from one friend, who commented that his plan felt "insincere;" and then, during a WeChat conversation with another friend, he casually brought up the project he was fundraising for and got the half-joking reply: "Don't do this to me." Eric's frustration was verging on anger.

For Eric, and countless nonprofit workers in China, this wasn't a normal day. Tomorrow would be the "99 Giving Day," an online donation bonanza that Tencent, one of China's most prominent tech companies, created in 2015 and has since grown into the most important event annually for charity workers. Every year for a few days leading up to Sept. 9, Tencent takes out tens of millions of dollars' worth of its own money to match the donations made on its Tencent Charity platform, a mini-app in WeChat where thousands of fundraising projects are listed. But to make the magic happen on these few days, nonprofit workers often start preparing months in advance, learning the platform's arcane rules, planning their strategies and mobilizing their giving communities. As the event grows bigger and the rules grow more complicated, the work is taking an emotional toll on people like Eric.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.
Latest Stories