Eli Pariser has an aw-shucks wholesomeness born of his upbringing in small-town Maine. He also has a razor-sharp knowledge of the Internet that quickly won him an eight-figure injection of venture capital. He’s even faster at garnering a million online signatures to end an injustice in some far-flung corner of Kansas or Kazakhstan.
At 32, Pariser is already a wise old men of the web. He cut his teeth by launching an online petition against what he saw as a wave of anti-Muslim hysteria after the 9/11 terror attacks. He led the fight against the Iraq war on the then-fresh frontier of the Internet. He turned MoveOn.org into a potent weapon on the left wing of the culture wars.
But Pariser is more than a partisan hack or a savvy hacker. His 2011 book, “The Filter Bubble,” made the crucial point that by tailoring information choices to users’ preferences, search engines and web algorithms push Americans further apart every day.
In 2013, Pariser co-founded Upworthy.com, which has taken the Internet by storm and is now one of the fastest-growing web sites. It aims to make important content go viral, rather than the usual diet of celebrity skin and gotcha sound bites.
What could be more Jewish than bringing the world together, giving us all tools to make it a better place, and — who knows — maybe making a few dollars one day?