Meetup takes risky leap into the Trump resistance


Meetup is taking a leap into the Trump resistance.

The New York-based networking site will unveil plans in the coming days to partner with a labor group — under the guidance of a former Hillary Clinton aide — to coordinate protests among more than 120,000 activists already involved with anti-Trump Meetup groups.

It's a risky move for a tech company that has helped millions come together to share interests of all kinds, from hiking to languages to President Donald Trump himself. But it reflects an increasing willingness of some major technology firms to push back against the Republican president.

Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman told The Associated Press that the new arrangement, to be known only as #Resist, gives the loosely organized protest movement the infrastructure needed to execute large responses to the new president's policies.

"It's one thing for a CEO to say, 'I'm going to stand up against a politician,'" Heiferman said. "It's even further for the company itself to mobilize people."

For Heiferman and other tech leaders, Trump's push to block immigration from several Muslim-majority countries marked a tipping point.

"When a certain line is crossed," he said, "we have a civic duty not to be quiet."

The White House did not respond to a request Friday for comment about Meetup's plans.

About 40 technology companies met privately this month in New York City to brainstorm ways to push back against Trump policies on immigration, transgender protections, women's health and arts funding, as well as more traditional technology issues like net neutrality and encryption.

The meeting was designed to "get beyond handwringing and move toward real action," said Michal Rosenn, general counsel for the Brooklyn-based company Kickstarter.

Kickstarter and Meetup were also among 58 technology companies that signed a friend-of-the-court brief on Tuesday charging that the White House's revised immigration plan would harm their employees and customers.

Airbnb, Apple, Twitter and Yelp filed a court brief late last month to protest the Trump administration's decision to rescind guidance that instructed schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The car service Lyft recently pledged $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Meetup, which employs 175 people and claims 30 million users worldwide, has gone further than most.

Disturbed by Trump's initial push for a travel ban, the firm held a company-wide "resist-a-thon" last month and unveiled more than 1,000 new "#resist" Meetup groups that didn't have to pay the standard $15 monthly fee to advertise their events on the site. Currently, there are more than 1,000 Meetup groups devoted to the Trump resistance across the country.

Meetup hired Clinton's former digital organizing director, Jess Morales Rocketto, to coordinate the new organizing platform with a group allied with the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

The Meetup software is "ready-made for rapid response," Morales Rocketto said, and has already been used to mobilize Trump protesters in recent weeks, including resistance events at Boston Logan's airport and a march in Mississippi.

Such actions alienated customers like Maria Lozinsky, a Trump supporter in Aurora, Colorado. She reacted by disbanding Meetup groups she had led for people interested in interior design and science fiction.

"It's just so sickening," she said of the proliferation of anti-Trump groups.

"That's their right," she said. "But it's my right to leave."

Meetup won't be restricting the ability of pro-Trump groups to use its main site, which it insists is nonpartisan.

Marketing and branding experts suggest that in the short run, it could be a zero sum game for companies that wade into politics. Inevitably, some offended customers will leave, while others take their place.

Yet, typically, customers who agree with a business' political stand have short memories, said marketing Professor Larry Chiagouris, of Pace University's Lubin School of Business.

"Those who are hostile have longer memories and are more likely to hold a grudge," he said.

Political consultant Liz Mair, who also advises private businesses, warned that the biggest risk in this case "is Trump taking retaliatory action against entities he sees as inherently opposed to him."

Ultimately, however, political stands by businesses often have little long-term impact on a company's brand, said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys Inc., a New York customer research firm.

"It's a little thing at best," he said.

Neil Blumenthal, co-CEO of the web-based global eyewear retailer Warby Parker, which was among the companies that filed legal briefs opposing Trump's immigration and transgender policies, acknowledged political activism could turn some consumers off.

"There's always the risk that when you stand for something there can be a backlash," Blumenthal said. "The bigger risk is to stand for nothing."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

After Irma: Palm Beach’s weeklong shutdown challenged, defended
After Irma: Palm Beach’s weeklong shutdown challenged, defended

Looking to restock his refrigerator three days after Hurricane Irma tore through Palm Beach County, attorney Richard Ryles headed to the Publix in Palm Beach. But, like scores of mainland residents discovered in the aftermath of the storm, the wealthy island was off-limits to nearly everyone who didn’t live or work in the tony town — not...
Aronberg: Fix Obamacare so unethical sober homes don’t exploit opioid crisis
Aronberg: Fix Obamacare so unethical sober homes don’t exploit opioid crisis

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg in 2016. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post) Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg says in a Time magazine op-ed that unscrupulous drug treatment providers have manipulated Obamacare “to foster a cycle of relapse, rather than recovery” and...
Starbucks exec Howard Schultz sure sounds like a 2020 presidential candidate
Starbucks exec Howard Schultz sure sounds like a 2020 presidential candidate

Since announcing in December that he would step down as Starbucks chief executive, there has been speculation that Howard Schultz is eyeing a run for president in 2020. A couple weeks back, I pegged him as the businessperson most likely to win the Democratic nomination.  Well, Howard Schultz sure sounds like a candidate.  Schultz spoke with...
Former Obama officials form group to combat Trump rollback of consumer protections in higher ed
Former Obama officials form group to combat Trump rollback of consumer protections in higher ed

A cadre of attorneys and policy advisers from the Obama administration is teaming up to do what they say Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seems incapable of doing: protecting students.  They have formed a coalition, called the National Student Legal Defense Network, that will partner with state attorneys general and advocacy groups to combat what...
Would GL Homes plan mean Ag Reserve flooding in hurricane?
Would GL Homes plan mean Ag Reserve flooding in hurricane?

The images from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are as fraught as they are fresh: wind-whipped waters flooding out neighborhoods; residents using boats and kayaks to reach their homes and businesses. Opponents of GL Homes’ plan to build more in Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve say agreeing to the developer’s request will...
More Stories