How reporter Rob Price got an inside look into Gaia and its world of conspiracy theories and alternative media

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Insider correspondent Rob Price is known for his hard-hitting investigations into some of the tech industry’s most secretive companies. His reporting into how Facebook obtained 1.5 million users’ email data without their consent prompted an investigation by the New York attorney general, and a story on Instagram’s lax privacy practices caused the company to alter its platform.

He’s written about deceptive sales practices at Yelp and taken readers inside Mark Zuckerberg’s family office.

Price spent more than four months digging into his most recent story, about the conspiracy-theory-peddling streaming service Gaia: “Gaia was a wildly popular yoga brand. Now it’s a publicly traded Netflix rival pushing conspiracy theories while employees fear the CEO is invading their dreams.”

Below, Price spoke with Insider fellow Grace O’Connell-Joshua about how he stumbled into the story, the rise of misinformation on the internet, and the role of Facebook in popularizing platforms such as Gaia.

Your story on the rise of Gaia is astounding. You describe the company as a “catalog is a kaleidoscopic array of wild claims, conspiracy theories, and new-age mysticism” and say that some of its employees are scared of its CEO invading their dreams. How on earth did you come across this story?

I’ve been interested in new-age belief systems and how they’ve been bolstered by the internet for a while, and I joined a bunch of increasingly esoteric Facebook groups with an eye to writing about these communities. Doing so apparently put me into an unusual advertising bucket, and I started getting constant ads from Facebook and Instagram by Gaia. 

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The company, its content, and its mission sounded intriguing, so I decided to make a few calls to insiders around November 2020. It quickly became clear there was a fascinating story here.

I then spent the next few months talking to dozens of current or former employees of the company, to build up a comprehensive picture of its history, operations, culture, and mission.

Many readers have never heard of Gaia. Why do you think this story is so important to tell?

I found it an important, interesting subject on a bunch of levels.

It’s an exploration of how misinformation can be monetized on the modern internet — and what happens when that misinformation invades the workplace itself. It’s the story of an accomplished and unusual serial entrepreneur, and the companies he has built.

It’s a microcosm of a broader trend in the new age/wellness/spirituality space, of the intersection between wellness and conspiracy theories, and how people in the former space can be radicalized into the latter.

What was it like talking to employees? Were they forthcoming with you about their experiences?

Like employees at many companies I speak to, workers were hesitant to speak publicly about their experiences because of concerns of professional, legal, or personal consequences. It’s why most of our sources asked for, and were granted, anonymity to talk more candidly about the company …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Tech


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