Big shock: Guy who fled political violence and became rich in tech now struggles to care about political violence

'I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy,' billionaire VC admits


Billionaire tech investor and ex-Facebook senior executive Chamath Palihapitiya was publicly blasted after he said nobody really cares about the reported human rights abuse of Uyghur Muslims in China.

The blunt comments were made during the latest episode of All-In, a podcast in which Palihapitiya chats to investors and entrepreneurs Jason Calacanis, David Sacks, and David Friedberg about technology.

The group were debating the Biden administration’s response to what's said to be China's crackdown of Uyghur Muslims when Palihapitiya interrupted and said: “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? ... I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about … yes, it is below my line.”

You can watch the full episode below (skip to 14:58 to hear Palihapitiya’s comments.)

Youtube Video

The CEO and founder of VC firm Social Capital goes on to clarify that he cares more about the US economy, the threat of China invading Taiwan, and climate change.

“Do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us,” Palihapitiya added. He was later heavily criticized on social media with netizens pointing out he fled to Canada as a child with his parents as refugees to escape political violence in Sri Lanka.

Palihapitiya made a fortune after studying electronic engineering, landing a job in Silicon Valley at Facebook during its second year, and then getting into venture capital. His investment firm has plowed money into startups in climate, education, tech, and more – including Slack and Yammer.

“In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy,” he said in a statement yesterday.

"I acknowledge that entirely. As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that humans rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop."

Many wondered whether his stake in The Golden State Warriors (GSW) played a role in his misjudged comments. Palihapitiya owns 10 per cent of the basketball team and the National Basketball Association (NBA) has a thorny relationship with China. Players and executives often remain tight-lipped and refrain from speaking out against the Chinese government over fears that the NBA could lose out on fans and lucrative sponsorship deals by upsetting the Middle Kingdom.

Daryl Morey, president of basketball operations of the Philadelphia 76ers team, for example, apologized when he tweeted in support of protests in Hong Kong in 2019. Tencent, one of China’s largest tech companies, pulled the broadcast of a basketball game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks last year after the Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom called China’s President Xi Jinping a dictator and said Tibet should be a free country.

The GSW, however, distanced itself from co-owner Palihapitiya’s remarks. “As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization,” its official PR team said in a statement. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Slack-for-engineers Mattermost on open source and data sovereignty
    Control and access are becoming a hot button for orgs

    Interview "It's our data, it's our intellectual property. Being able to migrate it out those systems is near impossible... It was a real frustration for us."

    These were the words of communication and collaboration platform Mattermost's founder and CTO, Corey Hulen, speaking to The Register about open source, sovereignty and audio bridges.

    "Some of the history of Mattermost is exactly that problem," says Hulen of the issue of closed source software. "We were using proprietary tools – we were not a collaboration platform before, we were a games company before – [and] we were extremely frustrated because we couldn't get our intellectual property out of those systems..."

    Continue reading
  • UK government having hard time complying with its own IR35 tax rules
    This shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've been reading the headlines at all

    Government departments are guilty of high levels of non-compliance with the UK's off-payroll tax regime, according to a report by MPs.

    Difficulties meeting the IR35 rules, which apply to many IT contractors, in central government reflect poor implementation by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and other government bodies, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.

    "Central government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds to cover tax owed for individuals wrongly assessed as self-employed. Government departments and agencies owed, or expected to owe, HMRC £263 million in 2020–21 due to incorrect administration of the rules," the report said.

    Continue reading
  • Internet went offline in Pakistan as protestors marched for ousted prime minister
    Two hour outage 'consistent with an intentional disruption to service' said NetBlocks

    Internet interruption-watcher NetBlocks has reported internet outages across Pakistan on Wednesday, perhaps timed to coincide with large public protests over the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

    The watchdog organisation asserted that outages started after 5:00PM and lasted for about two hours. NetBlocks referred to them as “consistent with an intentional disruption to service.”

    Continue reading
  • Suspected phishing email crime boss cuffed in Nigeria
    Interpol, cops swoop with intel from cybersecurity bods

    Interpol and cops in Africa have arrested a Nigerian man suspected of running a multi-continent cybercrime ring that specialized in phishing emails targeting businesses.

    His alleged operation was responsible for so-called business email compromise (BEC), a mix of fraud and social engineering in which staff at targeted companies are hoodwinked into, for example, wiring funds to scammers or sending out sensitive information. This can be done by sending messages that impersonate executives or suppliers, with instructions on where to send payments or data, sometimes by breaking into an employee's work email account to do so.

    The 37-year-old's detention is part of a year-long, counter-BEC initiative code-named Operation Delilah that involved international law enforcement, and started with intelligence from cybersecurity companies Group-IB, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42, and Trend Micro.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022