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Serious talk, © Francis dion

I just cancelled Kaspersky and Spotify

What we do matters. Our actions as citizens, consumers and investors should reflect our values and beliefs.

I believe in science, I trust health professionals, and I put other people’s health and safety over and above my personal comfort and convenience. I’m therefore fully vaccinated against COVID-19, pneumonia, and the seasonal flu; I often wear a mask even where there is no mandate to do so; and I act responsibly when choosing to meet — or not meet — others.

I believe climate change is a real and serious threat, so I instructed my financial institution to move my retirement money away from the fossil-fuel industry. I also do direct impact investing (see end-notes). Whenever they are available, I strive to pick the environmentally-friendlier options.

I like everything about the Chinese people, culture, food, etc. At some point I eagerly pursued opportunities to do business with that country. But I also believe in freedom of speech, journalistic independence, democracy, human decency, and the rule of law. I do not want my actions to further enrich and embolden the people who actively violate and trample upon these values, so I gave instructions for my financial assets to also be moved away from that country’s financial markets and institutions.

I enjoyed using Spotify for many years. I really liked some of the podcasts they host, and didn’t care much for others. When I heard of the controversial episode by Joe Rogan flying in the face of common sense and public safety, it made me cringe a little. But when I learned that Spotify was paying top dollars (millions with an “s”) to air (and presumably profit) from this podcast content, and when I saw Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek non-apology on the matter, I realized I could not continue supporting that platform with my dollars. This decision is not about censoring Joe Rogan right to speak. It is about my freedom of choosing who I give my business to. And Spotify no longer qualifies for that. I unsubscribed from the service, citing the Joe Rogan’s controversy as my sole reason for doing so. I’m currently evaluating competing services such as Amazon’s or Google’s.

I entrusted Kaspersky, the Russian-based software security company, with safeguarding my devices for many years. Even after learning of allegations they might have collaborated with Russia’s Federal Security Service, I decided to trust the company would do the right thing by its customers and safeguard itself against government meddling. While I was becoming more wary of an increasingly authoritative Kremlin, to which Kaspersky’s executives and employees won’t likely be able to stand up to if/when they come knocking, the tipping point for me came with the unprovoked war on Ukraine. Although I’m sure the vast majority of Kaspersky’s employees oppose this needless and horrible war, I cannot stand the idea of my hard-earned money somehow shoring up this shameful regime’s international currency reserves and dampening the impact of international economic sanctions. When I unsubscribed from their service, I mentioned the war and the authoritarian regime they operate under, while wishing their employees and families the best of luck and safety in these turbulent times. After a cursory review of current market offerings, I opted for and transitioned to Norton Antivirus which, so far, seems to be doing an excellent job of keeping my devices safe.

None of these decisions have cost me more than a little inconvenience. It would have been a shame not to do at least that. Writing this post actually took more efforts (writing is hard!), plus it (potentially) exposes me to the wrath of people taking offense to some of the issues I stand for. But that’s the very idea of “standing”, right? Hence my decision to do it publicly, in the open. This little (very little!) act of courage in no way compares to what the Ukrainian people are doing now, fighting literally for their life and freedom. I also recognize I’m not going nearly as far as I certainly could, like letting go of red meat (which is surprisingly worse for the environment than driving a car) or if I stopped indulging so much on unbridled consumerism. Still, little steps are better than no steps at all, and hopefully I’ll keep my journey towards a more honest, coherent and consistent version of myself.

Further reading:

The surprising truth about beef and cars: https://www.ecowatch.com/which-is-worse-for-the-planet-beef-or-cars-1919932136.html

More about impact investing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_investing

Shameless plug to Crewdle, “The greenest videoconferencing solution in the world”, where I am a minority investor: https://crewdle.com/

More on Spotify and the Joe Rogan controversy: https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/spotifys-ceo-sent-an-apology-email-to-his-employees-it-included-1-toxic-thing-no-leader-should-ever-do.html

More on alleged ties between Kaspersky and the Russian government: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaspersky_bans_and_allegations_of_Russian_government_ties

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Francis Dion

Francis Dion

Serial tech entrepreneur, mentor and consultant. Passionate about Artificial Intelligence, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Sales & Marketing.