Pando

Huffington Post co-founder launches campaign to "Stop the NRA"

By Hamish McKenzie , written on June 5, 2013

From The News Desk

Prompted by George Packer's New Yorker article about Silicon Valley, there has been a lot of discussion recently about the degree to which "startup culture" and the tech industry are forces for social good. While much of this discussion has focused on whether on not  apps can be useful to society beyond just helping solve problems for rich people, however, it has skirted over tech-led activism. Today, we have a new example of the tech community pushing for reform on a social issue: gun control.

Lerer Ventures partner Kenneth Lerer, a co-founder of Huffington Post and NowThis News, has launched "Stop the NRA," a social media-driven effort to keep gun control issues alive and to increase pressure on lawmakers to ban assault weapons. (Disclosure: Lerer Ventures is an investor in PandoDaily.)

The campaign started today at stopthenra.com, which features a video commissioned expressly for the occasion. The video (see below) juxtaposes National Rifle Association advocates and politicians complaining that the organization has been demonized by the media against a backdrop of footage from the scene of gun violence. The video interweaves the NRA soundbites with facts in stark white text that outline the extent of the US's gun problem ("1 in 3 people in the US know someone who's been shot"; "On average 8 children and teens are killed by guns every day").

Lerer first started a campaign of the same name 10 years ago before donating it to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence when the Republicans took control of Congress in 2004. He decided to revive it now because the timing seemed right. He believes the NRA's best days are in the past, and that the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut has made Americans more sympathetic to the need for gun control. "It’s time that something can happen.”

He is targeting the NRA specifically because he thinks the organization is a bully. "I don’t think they stand for what most Americans stand for," he says. "They block common sense on legislation by going over the top and threatening [politicians]. If you were able to make a dent in the NRA, then the walls crumble and things change."

Not surprisingly, the site was built with the help of the HuffPo mafia. The campaign website is built on the Lerer Ventures-backed RebelMouse, which automatically pulls in related tweets, status updates, and relevant news stories on an ongoing basis. Lerer says the campaign will curate, aggregate, and create new content, including video and research, as it progresses. He's not concerned about potential charges of "slacktivism," a term that refers to the use of social media to advocate for issues without fully investing oneself in them. “I think social media’s an obvious component of getting the word out and moving content around on any topic, activist or not activist," he says.

Lerer also helped organize a group of high-profile tech industry figures, along with angel investor Ron Conway, that supports the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit group focused on community safety that formed in response to the Newtown shootings. (Conway's SV Angel is an investor in PandoDaily as well.)

This is far more than just a pet cause for Lerer. It spawned his decision to build a media company that would become HuffingtonPost. And it informs what he won't do as well: Lerer was one of the only industry leaders who went on the record with us last week, calling out FWD.us for donating to senators who voted against background checks in the recent gun control bill. Expect him to keep pushing on this until real change happens, no matter how long that takes.