Skip to main content

Clearview AI CEO disavows white nationalism after exposé on alt-right ties

Clearview AI CEO disavows white nationalism after exposé on alt-right ties

/

‘I am not a white supremacist or an anti-semite’

Share this story

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Two employees of controversial facial recognition startup Clearview AI have been found to have ties to white nationalism, according to an exhaustive report by HuffPost published on Tuesday.

The report found that one investigator for the company belonged to a white nationalist group based in Washington, DC who continued to work for the company as recently as last month. Another employee had enthusiastically endorsed “Islamophobia, Eurocentrism and anti-Semitism” in online writings in 2015.

Reached by The Verge, Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That said he was unaware of the online writings and that neither employee remains with the company.

“I learned about the world, its inhabitants and ideas online.”

I am not a white supremacist or an anti-semite, nor am I sympathetic to any of those views,” Ton-That said in a statement. “They are abhorrent and I reject them wholly and without reservation.”

Clearview AI rose to prominence earlier this year, quietly offering facial recognition services to law enforcement and corporate clients that would identify a person from a photograph. Much of the company’s database was scraped from Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks in apparent violation of the platforms’ privacy protections and terms of service. Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is currently suing the company on those grounds, calling the service “unscrupulous, unethical, and contrary to public policy.”

At the same time, Clearview appears to have wide adoption within law enforcement. A client list obtained by BuzzFeed News lists more than 2,000 clients, including the FBI, Department of Justice, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Corporate clients include major brands like Best Buy and Macy’s.

The HuffPost report also details a web of more ambiguous connections between Ton-That and alt-right figures like Chuck Johnson, Pax Dickinson, and Richard Spencer. Ton-That was active on Johnson’s WeSearchr platform and appears to have socialized extensively with Johnson. (One photo, shared by Mike Cernovich, shows the pair giving the “okay” sign together at a restaurant.) Johnson also promoted Clearview extensively within his circle, even giving a private demo to a passenger on a plane. His broader involvement in the company is unclear, and Johnson has made various contradictory statements regarding it.

In his statement, Ton-That described those associations as the product of a life spent on the internet. “I learned about the world, its inhabitants and ideas online,” Ton-That said. “It had not always been a straight path, and it had not always served me well. There was a period when I explored a range of ideas—not out of belief in any of them, but out of a desire to search for self and place in the world. I have finally found it, and the mission to help make America a safer place.”

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 7 minutes ago The tablet didn’t call that play by itself

M
The Verge
Mary Beth Griggs7 minutes ago
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma Roth59 minutes ago
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther Wang12:00 PM UTC
E
Twitter
Emma Roth7:16 PM UTC
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell Brandom7:13 PM UTC
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard Lawler6:54 PM UTC
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell Brandom4:29 PM UTC
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma Roth4:13 PM UTC
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Andrew J. Hawkins3:37 PM UTC
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James Vincent3:17 PM UTC
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James Vincent3:03 PM UTC
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Elizabeth Lopatto2:41 PM UTC
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard Lawler2:09 PM UTC
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.