BlackRock has been a target of (largely negative) attention across unmoderated social media in January as three notable news events regarding the firm drove discussion among unmoderated social users.
First, on January 9, BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, announced layoffs of 3% of its global workforce, totaling roughly 600 positions. Some pundits speculated that the job cuts would be focused on the firm’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) business - political fallout of BlackRock’s ESG initiatives resulted in a decline in assets under management in 2023. While a BlackRock source later stated that no single team was in focus for the layoffs, users on unmoderated social, seized the opportunity to celebrate the company’s perceived failures.
Second, on January 10, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the first spot Bitcoinexchange-traded funds(ETFs) in the U.S., including an offering by BlackRock. Since the launch BlackRock’s iShares Bitcoin ETF has garnered the largest inflow of assets among competitors, becoming the first spot Bitcoin ETF to accumulate $1 billion in assets. Users on unmoderated social media however have questioned BlackRock’s intentions in the anonymous and decentralized asset class with such discussions furthering the conspiracy theory suggesting BlackRock is a central member of a secretive global cabal.
Finally, Blackrock’s recent participation in the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos in mid-January was leveraged by unmoderated networks to further circulate the conspiracy theory that purports the existence of a globalist financial authoritarian state whose intent is to control every aspect of modern life. For quite some time, BlackRock, as the world’s largest asset manager, has been regarded by the ecosystem as being a key member of this supposed cabal.
As a result of these events, Pyrra’s AI detected a spike in mentions of BlackRock across unmoderated social media, with most posts containing negative language. This spike is notable as it is materially above the baseline levels of attention that BlackRock has typically received over the prior six months.
BlackRock’s leadership in ESG has drawn condemnation
The modern concept of ESG investing was formalized in the mid-2000s, however, the principles behind ESG have roots that are decades old and derived from campaigns to pressure companies into fairer and more sustainable business practices.
Beginning in 2012 Larry Fink, BlackRock’s CEO, outlined the firm’s “value-focused engagement” approach towards investing. In subsequent letters, Mr. Fink expounded on the firm’s approach to ESG investing and became a leading figure (and BlackRock, by proxy, the leading asset manager) in the movement. Since this pronouncement, ESG has become politically polarized in the United States, as certain industries (such as oil, coal and tobacco) and their related political boundaries were potentially excluded from investment portfolios. Republican-controlled states withdrew billions in assets from BlackRock thereafter and have sought injunctive relief as a result. As a response to the backlash, Mr. Fink stated that he was “ashamed of being part of [the ESG] conversation” and lamented that the term ESG was “weaponized”.
Mentions of BlackRock and associated ESG terms
Users on unmoderated social media have championed the criticisms of BlackRock and tied them into wider conspiracies of using ESG to invoke a “woke” ideology to further globalists’ aims.
Much of the recent commentary across the unmoderated social ecosystem has spread false rumors that the announced BlackRock layoffs would be aimed at dismantling the firm’s corporate responsibility initiatives. Additionally, many have relished the firm’s perceived setbacks which could be used as a playbook for future campaigns against BlackRock and other financial institutions.
BlackRock’s ‘suspicious’ entreaties into Cryptocurrency
Bitcoin, and other cryptocurrencies, were developed in part to allow financial transactions without the need for institutions or intermediaries such as banks and brokerages. Given their decentralized nature, Bitcoin was attractive to those who were suspicious of the global financial system. Users across unmoderated social media fear that the potential scale of institutions like BlackRock in the Bitcoin ecosystem could give them undue influence on a cryptocurrency’s governance. Following the SEC’s approval of BlackRock’s Bitcoin ETF, mentions of the company spiked on unmoderated social media with the bulk of the commentary centered around BlackRock’s intent in the asset class and furthering untruths about BlackRock’s role in a purported globalist financial state.
Mentions of BlackRock and associated Cryptocurrency/Bitcoin terms
Of greater interest, was the concern amongst users that BlackRock’s Bitcoin ETF would dampen price volatility, making potential market manipulation more difficult and decreasing the potential opportunities for hacking, suggesting that such events were features, rather than bugs, of the Bitcoin ecosystem.
BlackRock’s scale naturally feed into “globalist” conspiracy theories among unmoderated social media users
With more than $9 trillion of assets under management, BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager and, as such, has become a target by those peddling conspiracy theories of a secretive “New World Order”. While flavors of this conspiracy can vary wildly, extending into bizarre claims of totalitarianism, pedophilia, anti-semitism and extraterrestrial invasion, the common thread among proponents of this conspiracy theory is their suspicion towards the concentration of economic power.
Mentions of BlackRock and associated “Globalist” terms
This portends that as a financial institution becomes more successful, the rhetoric trained at these organizations will become increasingly acrid and amplified. The narrative surrounding this conspiracy theory infects all topics pertaining to BlackRock – indeed, nearly all of the negative commentary on BlackRock’s ESG efforts and Bitcoin ETF mentioned previously is viewed and filtered through this lens.
Additionally, given the visibility of BlackRock’s CEO on this and other important issues facing asset management, Pyrra’s AI has detected interest on unmoderated social media as to the whereabouts of these key personnel, which could pose serious physical threats to executives and their families.
Unmoderated social media threats are increasingly aimed at the leaders of the global financial system, including BlackRock
The disinformation and conspiracy theories that plague BlackRock will likely continue for the foreseeable future, will become multivarious and worsen over time as BlackRock achieves greater success.
As BlackRock is very aware, conspiracy theories that have no factual basis can organically emerge from the fringes of the internet. Indeed, BlackRock was forced to rebut a rumor that the firm was amassing single-family homes in 2022 as conspiracy theorists mistook the company for another similarly named real estate and private equity giant.
That experience and others has driven BlackRock’s proactive approach to monitoring mainstream social media. But given BlackRock’s visibility on major issues in asset management and global business at large, combined with the animus aimed at such organizations in unmoderated social networks, the need to develop strategies to quickly identify emerging narratives and potential actionable threats should be a paramount concern for company stakeholders and officers.
Pyrra’s goal is to make the internet and the world a safer place by identifying and combating hate speech, violent threats, reputation risk and brand damage across the unmoderated and alternative corners of the internet. Should your team need support in monitoring or identifying threats or trends online, please contact us at email@example.com.