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Joshua Aron

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DailyRobinHood: A New Kind of Social Network

Posted: 07/24/11 06:25 PM ET

With an ever-widening gap between rich and poor and an increasingly ineffectual government, the burden of transforming America back into the land of equal opportunity now rests squarely on the fingertips of the people. Who else would fight for people whose net worth isn't six figures or greater, besides you and me? Unfortunately, those whom we elect to handle such responsibilities can no longer be trusted. Republicans today are so crazy they would likely demonize my childhood hero Robin Hood -- branding him a socialist guilty of redistributing wealth as opposed to a champion of the poor. They would rather play Russian roulette with the entire economy rather than compromise on the debt ceiling. On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Obama and the Democrats are such pushovers -- giving up the public option, extending the Bush tax cuts, and most recently not fighting for Elizabeth Warren's appointment -- that they make Neville Chamberlain look like John Wayne by comparison. (Perhaps that's a stretch but you get the idea.) Factor in that the HATE between these two parties is only surpassed by their love of campaign contributions and it becomes apparent that we the people have to rise above the fray and take an active role in determining our collective financial destiny.

Fortunately, we live in a time when new media can foster societal change on a scale never before seen. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have recently been credited with contributing to the uprisings in the Middle East and new media rallied around the News of the World scandal generating 75,000 "tweets" per hour demanding advertisers abandon the paper. Since our political leaders have forsaken us, tending to the needs of lobbyists, corporate America and special interests, while leaving average constituents with empty rhetoric, it's time for us to take the reins and use new media as a tool to help bring social consciousness and accountability to our corporate leaders.

Although Facebook and Twitter have acted as outlets for public backlash where people can gather to unite around a common cause, these websites/social networks already have their own identity and are only sporadically used in such a manner. It is more likely that someone signs onto Facebook to check on a friend's "relationship status" rather than to take a stand on corporate responsibility. That is why we need a social network that is more narrow in its focus -- its primary function to act as a democratically governed corporate oversight system.

I am in the process of creating a website called DailyRobinHood.com; its mission is to influence corporations and big business in the same way that a citizen's vote influences a politician. The site will resemble some of the more popular news/blog sites like Huffington Post and The Daily Beast but the majority of content will deal with financial practices of corporations and government. Articles will be written by experts with no political motives and written so everyday people can make better economic decisions both individually and collectively. Whereas the WSJ caters to hedge fund managers and CEOs, the website will be written for the layperson. The goal is to monitor businesses and will provide users with the kind of information they should have about companies before using their services or buying their products. For example, if a corporation has received billions in tax breaks and has given millions in bonuses to top executives but has only hired a handful of new workers, then people will be able to attach their name or profile to such a headline, advocating for a boycott of that company or simply disapproving of the company's practices. We might even provide the name of a major competitor who practices more favorable business ethics.

Like most things this website will gradually evolve to better fit the needs of the people -- this could be providing daily Martha Stewart-like tips of maximizing resources or perhaps comparing and contrasting our most frugal billionaires to our most generous. Mark Zuckerberg has said that he started Facebook as a kind of social experiment to determine what kind of impact social networks and the internet can have on society. I think the answer to that is self-evident and this website, DailyRobinHood.com, will push the envelope even further, unionizing the middle class and giving a voice to a disenfranchised people.