Do Something

Be prepared to vote!

If you want to be represented by public servants who are educated, listen to your needs, and pursue proven solutions, you have to show up at the polls so they know you’re serious.

The primary election is coming up on Tuesday, April 23, and the general election is on Tuesday, November 5. Make sure you are registered to vote and cast your ballot!  Here is everything you need to know about how to vote.


Get Involved

Engaged citizens strengthen democracy

One of the founding tenets of The Philadelphia Citizen is to get people the resources they need to become better, more engaged citizens of their city.

We hope to do that in our Good Citizenship Toolkit, which includes a host of ways to get involved in Philadelphia — whether you want to contact your City Councilmember about the challenges facing your community, get those experiencing homelessness the goods they need, or simply go out to dinner somewhere where you know your money is going toward a greater good.

Find an issue that’s important to you in the list below, and get started on your journey of A-plus citizenship.

Vote and strengthen democracy

Stand up for marginalized communities

Create a cleaner, greener Philadelphia

Help our local youth and schools succeed

Support local businesses


To this story in CitizenCast

Welcome to the enhanced audio edition of Larry’s story

And go here for more interviews, events and audio articles from CitizenCast

Is Jeff Yass the Last, Best Hope for Free Speech?

The much-vilified Bala Cynwyd-based billionaire, political donor, part TikTok owner may be the only person left who doesn’t want to shut everybody else up

Is Jeff Yass the Last, Best Hope for Free Speech?

The much-vilified Bala Cynwyd-based billionaire, political donor, part TikTok owner may be the only person left who doesn’t want to shut everybody else up

Stipulated: He’s become public enemy number one in the estimation of the intersectional Left journalistic industrial complex. The Nation magazine calls him a “certified Trump crony” and the New Republic erroneously holds that he’s “a billionaire who has emerged as a powerful backer of Trump’s reelection effort.” For nearly a decade, the Inquirer’s Will Bunch has described Bala Cynwyd-based trader Jeff Yass, the Commonwealth’s richest man, as “a Philadelphia libertarian right-wing billionaire who’s backed Rand Paul, charter schools and a pro-settlement Israeli think tank.”

I’ll say it again: I’ve met Jeff Yass all of, I think, three times in my life. Each time, in brief interactions, I’ve been impressed by his facile mind and smirking charm. I’m quite sure we disagree on much. But, as I’ve written before, in the context of his ideological true north — school choice, owing to a foundational commitment to educating poor Black and Brown students held hostage, as he sees it, in “government schools” — the caricature of Yass as some MAGA maniac doesn’t square with the facts.

Yass has not been a Trump supporter; in fact, if Yass has a guiding religion, it’s ultra-rationalism. Trump’s governing-by-gut instinct would likely repulse him. Yass is more likely to support, as he has, fellow data maven Andrew Yang or fellow Libertarian Rand Paul than a blob of ego like Donald Trump.

Yass, TikTok and professional gambling

Yass is in the news again, because he owns 15 percent of TikTok — roughly a $21 billion stake, making up much of his net worth. It’s suspected that he’s been leading the opposition to the bipartisan push in Congress to effectively ban the social media app. Trump, after all, once supported said ban; after meeting with Yass, he miraculously flip-flopped, causing all kinds of hand wringing over a possible new alliance between Yass and the Orange One.

I know I hold up bipartisanship as some kind of holy grail, but that a Congress that can’t agree on anything can find its way to common ground on actually banning speech ought to horrify any Madisonian who believes that the First Amendment is our most crucial of rights.

And make no mistake: That’s what the stunning, strange bedfellows 352-65 “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” House vote would do. I’m no user or fan of TikTok, but, as conceded by many of the bill’s supporters, we are talking about a ban of speech here — based on vague, Reefer Madness-like claims of a national security threat.

Yes, TikTok features stupid dance videos; but it also breaks news. (Senator Katie Brill’s obfuscations in her State of the Union response were not uncovered by The New York Times, but by a journalist posting on TikTok). Reminder: We have this document on parchment that prohibits government from denying the platform’s 170 million users access to both the dance and the news report.

And, yes, TikTok enriches Yass. But he has also framed his opposition in a principled allegiance to Madison’s proposed First Amendment language, which went even further than Jefferson: The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.

“I’ve supported libertarian and free market principles my entire adult life,” Yass told the Wall Street Journal. “TikTok is about free speech and innovation, the epitome of Libertarian and free market ideals. The idea of banning TikTok is an anathema to everything I believe.”

Yass’ pro-freedom agenda is deeply intertwined with his now-infamous reputation as a professional gambler. His company, Susquehanna International Group, got its start from his voluminous college-era racetrack winnings. At their Bala Cynwyd offices, job seekers as well as employees get screened by Yass at the poker table, where traders are evaluated for their problem-solving skills and temperaments. Yass studies “the hands that new hires play, looking for troubling traits like anchoring bias — the pegging of decisions to a past and irrelevant reference point — or availability bias, otherwise known as the ‘gambler’s fallacy,’” writes Antoine Gara in Forbes. “In this fatal flaw, a trader struggles to equally weight all new information appropriately.”

In that sense, there’s a confluence between Yass’ gambling and Libertarian ways. Both, as he sees it, rely on the free flow of information to guide good decision-making. Yass and his acolytes are constantly assessing and reassessing probability, and the more information available the better. Early on as a trader, the ultra-rationalist took on, and beat, financial “gut traders.” “Yass then leaned on his well-honed poker skills — how to read the subtleties of markets, adjust based on new information and size bets — to keep his edge,” writes Gara.

Information is king

In Jeff Yass’ world, information is king — which is ironic, given that the TikTok story these days has fallen prey to ill-informed reporting, as Taylor Lorenz has outlined in the Washington Post. TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, is not owned by the Chinese Communist Party — most of it is owned by investors like Yass. The CCP does not have access to your user data, which is housed on servers controlled by Texas-based Oracle; TikTok is not a Chinese company but a U.S. one bound by U.S. law and headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore. Finally, there is no evidence that the platform’s algorithm is controlled by the CCP to push propaganda. (Proponents of the ban point to the preponderance of pro-Palestinian posts as proof of Chinese public opinion manipulation, but they ignore the fact that other platforms, like Instagram, share the same ratio of pro-Palestine to pro-Israel posts.)

What is truly chilling, as the fearless journalist Matt Taibbi has reported, is that the House bill effectively banning TikTok will give the president — which is to say, even a future President Trump — sweeping new powers to control or censor the Internet. We’re not just talking TikTok here. Any “website, desktop application, mobile application, or augmented or immersive technology application” that is a “foreign adversary controlled application” and “determined by the President to present a significant threat to the National Security of the United States” can be shut down. Writes Taibbi:

A ‘foreign adversary controlled application,’ in other words, can be any company founded or run by someone living at the wrong foreign address, or containing a small minority ownership stake. Or it can be any company run by someone ‘subject to the direction’ of either of those entities. Or, it’s anything the president says it is. Vague enough?

Just imagine how that power plays out in a Trump presidency. The Patriot Act-like rush to ban TikTok is a signpost that free speech is starting to be seen as a fading 20th century fad. And don’t look now, but another threat looms: An Appeals Court ruling reconsidering Sarah Palin’s failed libel suit against the New York Times could come down any day now, on the basis of potentially reconsidering Times v. Sullivan, the groundbreaking free speech decision in the 60s that created a high bar for elected officials to hurdle in defamation suits.

Let’s see … a president with de facto free rein to censor social media platforms and an open invitation for those in power to sue their press critics? Could a lawsuit-happy autocrat get a more fitting, and bone-chilling, gift? Here’s for Jeff Yass making out like a bandit on TikTok if it means we get more voices in the public square — even if they’re annoying as hell — and we maintain the freedom to publicly criticize those we hire to represent us, no matter what Dear Leader says.


Jeff Yass. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil comments. If your post is offensive, not only will we not publish it, we'll laugh at you while hitting delete.

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story

Advertising Terms

We do not accept political ads, issue advocacy ads, ads containing expletives, ads featuring photos of children without documented right of use, ads paid for by PACs, and other content deemed to be partisan or misaligned with our mission. The Philadelphia Citizen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and all affiliate content will be nonpartisan in nature. Advertisements are approved fully at The Citizen's discretion. Advertisements and sponsorships have different tax-deductible eligibility. For questions or clarification on these conditions, please contact Director of Sales & Philanthropy Kristin Long at [email protected] or call (609)-602-0145.