By Spencer Feingold
The digital marketplace watchdog group, Consumer Reports, welcomed a $6 million donation on Thursday from Craig Newmark, the philanthropist and billionaire founder of Craigslist.
With the funding — which is the largest gift in Consumer Report's 83-year history — the organization is launching a new Digital Lab that will focus specifically on consumers' rights online.
It "will focus on connective products and also platforms, and we are going to test and investigate and we are going to provide consumers with rating and ways to make some more choices," Marta Tellado, Consumer Report's president and CEO, told Cheddar in an interview on Thursday.
The Digital Lab will also focus on monitoring marketplace standards in the tech industry and advocating for stricter privacy laws and antitrust regulations.
"We deal with a complex set of challenges in today's digital era, and this investment will expand Consumer Reports' scope to address critical issues that impact consumers," Newmark said in a statement.
Through his Craig Newmark Philanthropies, which was founded in 2015, Newmark has made several major investments in digital media. Just last year, he spent $20 million to fund The Markup, a nonprofit, data-driven journalism organization.
Newmark, who is a former board member of Consumer Reports, also donated to the organization in 2017 to fund The Digital Standard, which evaluates and ranks products and services for privacy standards.
The Digital Lab represents a new chapter in Consumer Report's storied history, which involves reviewing early car models and food products.
"All of the victories that we have had in the consumer rights' spaces, they really don't apply to the digital world," Tellado said, adding that the organization has been working for several years to develop methods to monitor digital products and services.
"Consumer Reports has a strong track record ー from ensuring the security of seatbelts in cars to keeping toxins out of food ー and this new initiative will increase transparency in the digital marketplace, bolstering consumers' ability to have more control, more options, and stronger voices," Newmark's statement added.