×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tumblr CEO David Karp on Donald Trump, Net Neutrality and Backing Planned Parenthood

Tumblr will host a rally at SXSW in Austin on Sunday night to support Planned Parenthood, the women’s health nonprofit that has come under attack by Donald Trump. The president and Republicans in Congress want to cut federal funding for the organization, because its health clinics perform abortions, among other services like cancer screenings and STD testing.

The rally, called “Never Going Back,” came about because Tumblr CEO David Karp serves on the Planned Parenthood board. His employees have already donated $80,000 to the organization, and Karp released this statement, asking other tech leaders to stand behind women’s health care. Ahead of the event, Karp sat down with Variety in Austin to talk about activism under Trump, concerns about the end of net neutrality and the 10-year anniversary of Tumblr, the social-networking platform that he founded, which was purchased by Yahoo! in 2013.

How did you get the idea for this rally?
We care deeply about Planned Parenthood and want to help in any way that we can. This is a hugely terrifying moment for them.

During the campaign, there were times that Donald Trump defended Planet Parenthood. Are you surprised that he’s changed that message?
I am not surprised, but certainly heartbroken. I was holding out hope, too. I’m always the eternal optimist, looking for any signal that he would go, as the non-traditional candidate, “I’m not going to toe the party line on this one.” I was hoping Jared and Ivanka could get through to him, but here we are.

How did you first learn about Planned Parenthood?
Stories from my mom, about stuffing envelopes and marching. Beyond that, the next thing that brought me into it as a kid, I was the first generation growing up that turned to the Internet for a lot of these questions about sex and identity. There’s always been a stigma attached to it in the U.S. It’s just too weird to talk to your friends about. But we could turn to AOL to try to get answers. Even then, I remember Planned Parenthood had the most well-constructed, thoughtful resources that answered the questions I had.

Do you think there could be a world without Plannet Parenthood?
I can’t imagine this organization will ever go away.

Is Tumblr backing Planned Parenthood as part of a bigger political stand?
One of the things that’s been really eye opening and inspiring to see since the start of the year is the intersections of all these causes now. You have the sense of, “All for one and one for all,” whether it’s the ACLU or Planned Parenthood taking the frontlines. Or down in the community level. It was always kind of there; that was the magic of Tumblr. But more than ever, it’s so punctuated. It’s become a powerful rallying cry.

What are your biggest concerns about the next four years under Trump?
So much–a lot. I’m heartbroken to see the sea change on net neutrality. More than that, the exposure of seeing up close the implications of state surveillance and what that means for our security and privacy, particularly on a platform like ours. I’m grateful we don’t have the security concerns that a bank deals with. But a lot of people turn to Tumblr as a place where they can express sides of themselves that aren’t acceptable yet in their community and culture. The thought of that ever being compromised is so horrifying.

And with the immigration ban, there have been attacks on diversity, which has been a trademark of Silicon Valley.
It’s not enough of a trademark. But it has been of this country. The fact that we’re turning so many people away. Whatever you think about illegal immigration, the way it’s been executed has had such sweeping effects on how we get smart and talented people that have so much to offer to all of us. There was a few pages dedicated to immigration stories in the Times this morning. I was looking through the whole thing, wondering: at what point do we start to be a beacon for talent and opportunity again? How much do we suffer for giving that up in the next few years?

Do you think Silicon Valley has a responsibility to oppose Trump’s policies?
First of all, although I probably have, I’m always wary of couching it as standing up to Trump. To me, it is standing up against a swell of regressive movement. I don’t think any of us can afford to sit this out. I think the tech community, its leadership, its teams and organizations, we’re in a real position to help.

You recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Tumblr. What are you most proud of accomplishing in that time?
I’m so proud of the community that’s made Tumblr what it is. We started as a little side project. I wanted a novel way to publish at a time when publishing had turned into these narrow channels. All of a sudden people started doing this incredible stuff. Out of all that, this whole network started to emerge. I do a little orientation for people who join Tumblr to walk them through the history to really hammer it home: everything we are, we owe to the creativity of this community. I do not take them for granted.

POPULAR ON VARIETY: Jeff Bridges revives ‘The Dude’ to honor John Goodman

More Digital

  • Mueller Report Books Editions Top Amazon's

    Mueller Report Print Editions Shoot to Top of Best-Seller Lists at Amazon, Barnes & Noble

    Robert Mueller is now a best-selling author. Book publishers’ forthcoming editions of the special counsel’s report zoomed to the top of the Amazon’s and Barnes & Noble’s lists of book best-sellers Friday. That comes a day after the report was publicly released, culminating the nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election [...]

  • Marques Brownlee - Retro Tech

    YouTube Orders Marques Brownlee 'Retro Tech' Original Series

    YouTube has turned to one of its homegrown stars — technology vlogger Marques Brownlee, aka “MKBHD” — for its newest original series. The video platform has greenlit series “Retro Tech” featuring Brownlee, in which he’ll unbox and review vintage technology products that have defined pop culture. The show, slated to debut in December 2019, follows [...]

  • Netflix Tests Random Episode Button in

    Netflix Starts Testing Random Episode Button

    Netflix is testing a button to play random episodes of select TV shows, the company confirmed Friday morning. “We are testing the ability for members to play a random episode from different TV series on the Android mobile app,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety. “These tests typically vary in length of time and by region, [...]

  • Netflix Our Planet Sophie Darlington

    Netflix's 'Our Planet' Roars to Life With Work by Top Wildlife Cinematographers

    In terms of scope, production time and — very likely — budget, Netflix’s “Our Planet” is one of the most ambitious projects from the streaming service to date. Narrated by David Attenborough and made available worldwide on April 5, the goal of the eight-part series is to capture diverse habitats across the globe and highlight [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music’s Free Tier Is More Advertising Play Than Spotify Killer, Analysts Say

    When news began to spread last week that Amazon Music’s long-anticipated free streaming tier was imminent, headlines emerged about its threat to Spotify and Apple Music, with some stories saying that Spotify’s stock price dropped in response to the news. But not only was today’s launch of the free tier basically a soft one — [...]

  • Gay Chorus Deep South

    Why Airbnb Produced Documentary 'Gay Chorus Deep South,' Its First-Ever Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    The latest player to hit the film-festival circuit may be a bit unexpected: Airbnb, the travel-accommodations booking marketplace, developed, financed and produced documentary film “Gay Chorus Deep South,” set to premiere at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 29. It’s the company’s very first feature film. Directed by David Charles Rodrigues, “Gay Chorus Deep [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content