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.
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