Damien Patton, CEO of AI Surveillance Tool Banjo, Resigns After KKK Neo-Nazi Past Exposed

The CEO of Utah-based social media mining company Banjo has resigned after being linked to white supremacist groups and hate crime.

Damien Patton, who founded the Softbank-backed company in 2010, will leave his role "effective immediately" as the firm transitions to a new leadership team led by Justin Lindsey, who until now has worked as its chief technology officer (CTO).

News of the shift comes after technology publication OneZero re-surfaced newspaper reports from the 1990s which tied Patton to a fork of the Ku Klux Klan hate group and his involvement with a synagogue shooting in Nashville when he was 17.

An image published by OneZero showed Patton, now 47, giving a neo-Nazi salute alongside at least seven other members of the extremist organization.

Banjo attracted headlines in recent years for its artificial intelligence social media alert system that provides real-time updates to police and law enforcement agencies.

A contract with Utah, worth more than $20 million but scrapped after the news broke, had also given the company access to some traffic and CCTV cameras, Vice reported. According to Crunchbase, Banjo has attracted at least $121 million funding.

"I'm deeply honored to have worked alongside the Banjo team and am proud of all we have accomplished thus far," Patton said in his resignation statement.

"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," he added.

In recent years, Patton and his company were the subject of numerous newspaper and online profiles, but the founder's extremist past went unnoticed, partly due to his name being misspelled in earlier court proceedings and police filings.

In its investigative report, OneZero unearthed an article by The Tennessean from 1992 that covered Patton's previous involvement with an Aryan Nations project.

The CEO had been charged, and pleaded guilty to, juvenile delinquency in connection to the drive-by synagogue shooting incident, in which no-one was killed.

In a 1992 trial, he reportedly testified: "We believe that the Blacks and the Jews are taking over America, and it's our job to take America back for the White race."

In a statement released alongside the OneZero report, also shared on Banjo's website, Patton expressed "extreme remorse" for his behavior earlier in life.

He wrote: "I did... despicable and hateful things, including to my own Jewish mother, that today I find indefensibly wrong, and feel extreme remorse for. I have spent most of my adult lifetime working to make amends for this shameful period in my life."

"I dropped out of school, lived on the streets, ate out of dumpsters and raised money panhandling. I was desperate and afraid. I was taken in by skinhead gangs and white supremacist organizations. Over the course of a few years, I did many things as part of those groups that I am profoundly ashamed of and sorry about," he added.

On April 28, the Utah Attorney General's Office said it was "shocked and dismayed" by the news. It announced the suspension of Banjo technology and said it was launching a third-party audit to probe its "data privacy" and any "possible bias."

The following day, Banjo said it had "decided" to temporarily suspend Utah contracts until the state's independent third party audit has been "contracted and completed."

Banjo
The logo for Banjo, a social media and data aggregation company that markets its services towards law enforcement agencies. Banjo/Homepage
Damien Patton, CEO of AI Surveillance Tool Banjo, Resigns After KKK Neo-Nazi Past Exposed | Tech & Science
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