Argentinian IT services corporate Globant's accelerator is backing a French-founded social networking app, Polemix, that promises to promote respectful political discourse through virtual debates hosted on its platform.
Polemix's social debating platform is aimed at encouraging healthy dialogue on divisive current issues. On launch, it will host short-form video addresses from influencers hoping to shape public opinion, possibly including some of the "world's brightest youth" and "global leaders from both sides."
Each influencer presentation lasts 30 seconds and concludes in a poll where viewers can back the influencer's standpoint, or "respectfully" demur. To keep things interesting, the Polemix algorithm learns to keep challenging the user's preferences, gently nudging them to keep an open mind.
In democracy there's an old adage about the 'silent majority', whose views eluded pollsters right until election day. And the term neatly fits the social media demographic who now avoid contact with politically charged posts in their news feeds.
Lurking behind Musk-sponsored Twitter ballots is a 21st century non-chattering class comprised of passive users who, for the most part, push mute to actively ignore politically-themed socials due to their adversarial tenor.
Reinvigorating that demographic to engage with online political content is a noble goal. Aside from the debates, Polemix's platform will deploy NFTs to give users virtual bragging rights for backing an influencer's opinion shaping campaign.
Let users "invest" in opinions, see views contrary to their own. Even profit by changing their mind from time to time.
Seriously, though, the token factor is a financial incentive for civilised debate, and what better way to engender mutual respect between Polemix's debating factions than a virtual monetary reward. Proof of support tokens would serve as digital ownership in the platforms set out by opinion influencers, with proceeds perhaps used to reward philanthropic causes. Key themes at launch include freedom of speech, human rights, feminism, animal rights and populism.
So how would these token rewards work in practice? Ian Sielecki, company co-founder at Polemix, tells Tech.eu, "In order to generate respectful comments on hot, polemic ideas, Polemix is using a revolutionary approach: financial incentives.
"Unlike social media, which generates incentives for radical and hateful comments, Polemix is making it attractive to be civil and smart.
"Top comments supporting or opposing a leader’s opinion, if they are respectful, will be rewarded with a generous cut of the funds generated by the leader’s tokens."
Globant is backing Sielecki's startup from its Be Kind Tech Fund, a $10 million fund administered by its CVC accelerator Globant Ventures.
Be Kind Tech is claimed to be the first time a CVC's investment remit has specifically sought to mitigate tech abuse, addressing information bubbles and public polarisation, as well as tackling AI bias, online harassment, data privacy and screen time abuse.
With a roster of partners that includes Nazca, George Washington University, Riverwood Capital and IDB Lab, the Argentina-HQed fund wants to back more European startups in line with its investment thesis.
Guibert Englebienne, president of Globant Ventures, commented: "Globant was founded with the belief that technology has played – and will continue to play – a fundamental role in the continuous reinvention of our world. As technology grows more sophisticated, its potential for good increases.
"Alongside our Be Kind Tech Fund’s partners and advisors, we will increase our collective power to ensure technology is harnessed for the benefit of society and reduce the potential harms of its misuse or misapplication.”
In his pitch deck to Be Kind's partners, Sielecki may well have presented his political resume. His profile includes a tenure producing oratory for a former president of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, and Sielecki has also contributed to some major democracy initiatives globally, including the New York Times Athens Democracy Forum and Transatlantic Debates Association. Polemix's strategic co-founder Ismaël Emelien is an ex-chief advisor to French president Emmanuel Macron.
Sielecki adds that his team decided to enlist NFT technology after completing an early pilot of the 30-second video format.
"As you point out, Polemix initially started as a Beta platform making sure users were exposed to different sides of hot discussions through short videos. That initial product worked very well, but it was not enough," Sielecki said. "We decided to take that vision to a whole new level with a more powerful approach. So we are now partnering with the world’s most influential opinion leaders to tokenise their hottest ideas."
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