WASHINGTON — Pierre Omidyar, the multi-billionaire founder of eBay, has shown a lot of interest on social media in the last few months in Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who is leaving The Guardian after a series of scoops exposing large-scale domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
Greenwald told BuzzFeed on Tuesday that he is leaving The Guardian to start a "momentous new venture." He declined to discuss who would be funding the new outlet but said it would be "very well-funded" and "very substantial."
Omidyar is based in Hawaii and became a billionaire after eBay went public in 1998. According to Forbes, he is worth $8.5 billion. He runs the Omidyar Network, an investment firm focused on philanthropy, and is also an investor in media: In 2010, he created Civil Beat, an investigative journalism startup focused on Hawaii. Recently, Civil Beat partnered with the Huffington Post to introduce HuffPost Hawaii.
Omidyar tweets almost exclusively about surveillance and civil liberties and often retweets Greenwald and others in his circle, like the journalist Jeremy Scahill.
He is a professed fan of Greenwald and often tweets his stories and tweets in support of him:
He defends Greenwald from critics:
In an interview with Civil Beat about the Huffington Post partnership, Omidyar, who was accompanied by Arianna Huffington at the interview, expanded on his views about the NSA: "Can we be truly free if we are surveilled all the time, if we have no privacy? I think that's a really important debate to have."
Greenwald declined to discuss who his financial backer is.
Spokespeople for Omidyar did not respond to repeated calls and emails requesting comment.
Update - 7:29 p.m., ET: Reuters has confirmed that Omidyar is the financial backer of the venture that Greenwald is joining.