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Scientist, enforcer, high-flyer: 3 girls put a mark on tech

Lina Khan, nominee for Commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), speaks all through a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation affirmation listening to, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Khan is now the youngest explicit individual ever to steer the Federal Trade Commission, an firm now poised to aggressively implement antitrust regulation in the direction of the tech commerce. Credit: Graeme Jennings/Washington Examiner by way of AP, Pool, File

Three vibrant and pushed girls with ground-breaking ideas made essential—if very fully totally different—marks on the embattled tech commerce in 2021.

Frances Haugen, Lina Khan and Elizabeth Holmes—a data scientist turned whistleblower, a licensed scholar turned antitrust enforcer and a former Silicon Valley high-flyer turned jail defendant—all figured intently in a experience world the place males have prolonged dominated the spotlight. Think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk.

Haugen, a former product supervisor at Facebook, went public with inside paperwork to buttress accusations that the social neighborhood massive elevated earnings over the safety of consumers. At 32, Khan is the youngest explicit individual ever to steer the Federal Trade Commission, an firm now poised to aggressively implement antitrust regulation in the direction of the tech industry.

Holmes was as quickly as worth $4.5 billion on paper. Following a 3 1/2-month federal trial that captivated Silicon Valley, she was convicted Monday on 4 counts of fraud and conspiracy for misleading patrons regarding the accuracy of a blood-testing experience developed at her startup Theranos. Holmes would possibly now stand up to 20 years in jail.

The jury found her not accountable of 4 totally different felony charges. On the three remaining charges, the jury was deadlocked.

Holmes’ story has develop to be a Silicon Valley morality story—a founder who flew too extreme, too fast—even when male tech executives have been accused of comparable actions or worse with out going by way of charges.


Haugen joined Facebook out of a need to help it deal with misinformation and totally different threats to democracy. But her frustration grew as she realized of on-line misinformation that stoked violence and abuse—and which Facebook wasn’t addressing efficiently.

So inside the fall of 2021 the 37-year-old Haugen went public with a trove of Facebook paperwork that catalogued how her former employer was failing to protect youthful prospects from body-image factors and amplifying on-line hate and extremism. Her work moreover laid bare the algorithms Big Tech makes use of to tailor content material materials that will maintain prospects hooked on its suppliers.

“Frances Haugen has transformed the conversation about technology reform,” Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook who grew to develop into one amongst its important critics, wrote in Time journal.

Facebook the company, which has since renamed itself Meta Platforms, has disputed Haugen’s assertions, although it hasn’t pointed to any factual errors in her public statements. The agency instead emphasizes the massive sums it says it has invested in safety since 2016 and data displaying the progress it’s made in the direction of hate speech, incitement to political violence and totally different social ills.

Haugen was successfully positioned to unleash her bombshell. As a graduate enterprise scholar at Harvard, she helped create an internet primarily based relationship platform that lastly turned the connection app Hinge. At Google, she helped make 1000’s of books accessible on cellphones and to create a fledgling social neighborhood. Haugen’s creative restlessness flipped her by way of quite a few jobs over 15 years at Google, Yelp and Pinterest and naturally Facebook, which recruited her in 2018.

Scientist, enforcer, high-flyer: 3 women put a mark on tech
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, arrives on the federal courthouse for jury alternative in her trial, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, in San Jose, Calif. Coming into 2022, Holmes, as quickly as worth $4.5 billion on paper, is now awaiting a jury’s verdict on fraud charges that she misled patrons and victims regarding the accuracy of a blood-testing experience developed at her startup Theranos. Credit: AP Photo/Nic Coury, File

Haugen’s revelations energized world lawmakers searching for to rein in Big Tech, although there’s been little concrete movement inside the U.S. Facebook rushed to change the subject by rolling out its new firm title and having fun with up its dedication to rising an immersive experience platform usually referred to as the “metaverse.”

Haugen moved last yr to Puerto Rico, the place she says she’s going to benefit from anonymity that will elude her in northern California. “I don’t like being the center of attention,” she knowledgeable a packed space at a November conference in Europe.


An analogous dynamic prevailed for Khan, a tutorial outsider with big new ideas and a far-reaching agenda that ruffled institutional and enterprise feathers. President Joe Biden stunned official Washington in June when he put in Khan, an full of life critic of Big Tech then instructing regulation, as head of the Federal Trade Commission. That signaled a hard authorities stance in the direction of giants Meta, Google, Amazon and Apple.

Khan is the youngest chair inside the 106-year historic previous of the FTC, which polices rivals, shopper security and digital privateness. She was an unorthodox various, with no administrative experience or data of the corporate aside from a fast 2018 stint as licensed adviser to certainly one of many 5 commissioners.

But she launched psychological heft that packed a political punch. Khan shook up the antitrust world in 2017 collectively together with her scholarly work as a Yale regulation scholar, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” which helped kind a model new methodology of looking at antitrust law.

For a very long time, antitrust work has outlined anticompetitive conduct as market dominance that drives up prices, an thought that doesn’t apply to many “free” experience suppliers. Khan instead pushed to take a look at the broader outcomes of firm concentrate on industries, employees and communities. That school of thought—dubbed “hipster antitrust” by its detractors—appears to have had a giant have an effect on on Biden.

Khan was born in London; her family moved to the New York City space when she was 11. After graduating from college, she spent three years as a protection analyst on the liberal-leaning suppose tank New America Foundation sooner than leaving for Yale.

Under Khan’s six-month tenure, the FTC has sharpened its antitrust assault in the direction of Facebook in federal court docket docket and pursued a contest investigation into Amazon. The firm sued to dam graphics chip maker Nvidia’s $40 billion purchase of chip designer Arm, saying a blended agency would possibly stifle the enlargement of latest utilized sciences.

In Khan’s aggressive investigations and enforcement agenda, key priorities embrace racial bias in algorithms and market-power abuses by dominant tech companies. Internally, some employees have chafed at administrative changes that expanded Khan’s authority over policymaking, and one Republican commissioner has assailed Khan in public.

“She’s shaken things up,” acknowledged Robin Gaster, a visiting scholar at George Washington University who focuses on economics, politics and experience. “She is going to be a field test for whether an aggressive FTC can expand the envelope for antitrust enforcement.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the primary enterprise lobby, has publicly threatened court docket docket fights, asserting that Khan and the FTC are waging battle on American corporations.

Scientist, enforcer, high-flyer: 3 women put a mark on tech
Former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen testifies all through a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation listening to on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, in Washington. Haugen made a giant mark on the embattled tech commerce in 2021. Credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post by way of AP, Pool, File


Holmes primarily based Theranos when she was 19, dropping out of Stanford to pursue a daring, humanitarian idea. Possessed of seemingly boundless networking chutzpah, Holmes touted Theranos blood-testing experience as a breakthrough which may scan for an entire lot of medical conditions using just a few drops of blood.

By 2015, 11 years after leaving Stanford, Holmes had raised an entire lot of tens of hundreds of thousands of {{dollars}} for her agency, pushing its market price to $9 billion. Half of that belonged to Holmes, incomes her the moniker of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire at 30.

Just three years later, though, Theranos collapsed in scandal. Now standing convicted of the fraud and conspiracy charges, Holmes, who’s 37, would possibly stand up to 20 years in jail for each rely.

When youthful, Holmes was a aggressive prodigy who overtly aspired to make an infinite fortune. She started studying Mandarin Chinese with a tutor spherical age 9, and talked her methodology into summer season programs inside the language at Stanford after her sophomore yr in highschool.

In her sophomore college yr, she took the remainder of her tuition money as a stake and dropped out to run her agency.

As Theranos ascended, some observed Holmes as the next Steve Jobs. Theranos ultimately raised larger than $900 million from patrons along with media baron Rupert Murdoch and Walmart’s Walton family.

The agency’s fairy-tale success started to unravel in 2016, when a sequence of Wall Street Journal articles and a federal regulatory audit uncovered a pattern of grossly inaccurate blood ends in checks run on Theranos devices.

The Holmes trial has uncovered Silicon Valley’s “fake it ’til you make it” custom in painful aspect. Tech entrepreneurs sometimes overpromise and exaggerate, so prosecutors confronted the issue of proving that Holmes’ boosterism crossed the street into fraud.


This story has been corrected to copy that Haugen moved to Puerto Rico last yr, not this yr.

Jurors mull whether Theranos founder guilty of fraud

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