According to KUTV, Banjo CEO Damien Patton has resigned after reports surfaced of his past affiliation with white supremacist groups, and his involvement in a drive-by shooting of a synagogue two decades ago.
“According to a story by Matt Stroud of OneZero Media, Banjo CEO and co-founder Damien Patton, 47, pleaded guilty in 1992 for assisting a KKK leader in a drive-by shooting of a Jewish synagogue. It was a story initially reported by The Tennessean in 1992,” said the report. “More than 1,000 pages of court records, reviewed by OneZero, but not independently confirmed by 2News, show Patton was an active participant in white supremacist groups in his youth. Patton admitted to also participating in talks on white supremacy, where he advocated for the elimination of blacks and Jews.”
“I’m deeply honored to have worked alongside the Banjo team and am proud of all we have accomplished thus far,” said Patton in his resignation announcement. “I am confident Banjo’s greatest days are still ahead and will do everything in my power to ensure our mission succeeds. However, under the current circumstances, I believe Banjo’s best path forward is under different leadership.”
Banjo, a Utah-based tech firm, has worked with the government to provide artificial intelligence systems that screen people for public safety agencies. It was referred to by Inc.’s Will Bourne as “the most influential social media company you’ve never heard of.” In recent years, Patton and the company have made boasts at major tech conferences that their algorithm allows them to “know things before anyone else.”
Following the investigations into Patton, the state of Utah has suspended Banjo’s contract.
This is not an isolated incident. In recent years, reports have surfaced of the extent to which far-right activists have sought to insert themselves into big tech and surveillance. Clearview AI, another prominent tech firm that provides facial recognition to ICE, the FBI, and local police departments around the country, has extensive ties to fringe pro-Trump conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazis.