The demise of Silicon Valley Bank, once a tech industry darling, has sparked fierce debate and claims of political motivations from all sides. It ignited a political firestorm online, with activists and influencers across the ideological spectrum pushing divergent narratives about the bank's downfall.
Analyzing the narratives around Silicon Valley Bank's failure provided insight into how quickly misleading story lines can coalesce and propagate in today's digital landscape. Blackbird.AI’s Constellation Narrative Intelligence Platform illuminated how even stalwart brands can have their reputations jeopardized when problematic narratives proliferate unchecked. Blackbird.AI closely monitored these online discussions to discover how stories form and quickly spread on the internet.
This visualization demonstrates a single user's influence on a conspiratorial narrative. The users in red, representing members of the Right-Wing cohort, illustrate how narratives can resonate within particular communities online.
These are some of the most prominent misleading narratives surrounding the Silicon Valley Bank collapse.
Misleading Narrative: A Bank Run for Trump
On March 18th, a prominent conservative influencer and contributor for a television network suggested that conservative supporters should “lead a nationwide bank run” in response to the news of the Silicon Valley Bank collapse and the announcement of Donald Trump’s first criminal indictment. This narrative was particularly popular with the conservative cohort (37.3% cohort participation) and the right-wing cohort (18% cohort participation). Most among the right-wing cohort only shared Posobiec’s original suggestion, while members of the Left-Wing cohort mocked the right-wing for attempting organized financial protest.
Misleading Narrative: No Taxpayer Bailout of SVB
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank spurred debates online on whether the government would or should bail out the bank with taxpayer money. While both sides of the American political spectrum expressed strong opposition to the notion of a “taxpayer bailout,” the fiercest opposition and anger (95.6% for the full narrative) came from the right-wing cohort (34.5% cohort participation). On March 10th, a Republican representative said he would not support a taxpayer bailout of Silicon Valley Bank, which yielded over 2.5K retweets and over 21K likes.
Misleading Narrative: California Governor Gavin Newsom had deep ties to SVB
On March 12th, users within the right-wing cohort (30.5% cohort participation) and conservative cohort (13% cohort participation) began sharing a right-wing blog criticizing California Governor Gavin Newsom. The report generated 1,480 engagements, with the article's headline alleging that Silicon Valley Bank has deep ties to Gavin Newsom and his family. The report further clarifies that one executive from SVB sits on the board of Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s, Governor Newsom’s wife, California Partners Project. Another vocal Newsom critic and right-wing influencer echoed suspicions about what the Newsom family might’ve known ahead of the bank’s collapse. Similarly, on March 18th, a prominent social media account dedicated to tracking politicians' financial activities said that Newsom lobbied the White House to bail out SVB while failing to disclose that “his private wineries had reportedly been the bank’s clients and he may have even had a personal account at the bank.”
Misleading Narrative: SVB CEO dumped personal stock before the bank’s collapse
On March 10th, several financial and cryptocurrency news aggregators and influencers began sharing the claim that the CEO of Silicon Valley Bank sold $3.5 million worth of SVB stock ahead of the bank’s collapse. Other posts also suggested that the CFO and CMO also sold significant amounts of stock, insinuating that they knew about the bank’s potential collapse and acted to personally benefit instead of protecting customers. This narrative generated engagement from both the right-wing (16.6% cohort participation) and the Left-Wing (13.1% cohort participation) cohorts, with Disgust (31.9% detected within the narrative) being the most prominent emotion displayed within posts.
Misleading Narrative: Signature Bank failed due to ties to Trump family
Starting on March 14th, users within the Left-Wing cohort (74.7% cohort participation) started sharing the claim that Signature Bank, which also failed in the aftermath of Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, was a Trump Bank. Users first asserted that Ivanka Trump, former President Trump’s daughter, sat on Signature Bank’s board. Those claims then expanded to Signature Bank loaning money directly to former President Trump, the Trump Organization, and the Kushner family.
Misleading Narrative: SVB went bankrupt because of donations to “woke” causes - #GoWokeGoBroke
On March 14th, a right-wing influencer and vocal critic of President Joe Biden claimed that Silicon Valley Bank “gave $73 million to Black Lives Matter and other related causes,” along with the hashtag “#GoWokeGoBroke.” Other users in the right-wing (27.5% cohort participation) and conservative (14.4% cohort participation) cohorts also shared this claim, insinuating that SVB’s connection to progressive activism was related to the bank’s collapse. The narrative was picked up by a prominent news network, which sourced the claim to a database from the conservative institute.
Misleading Narrative: Jeffery Epstein was involved in the collapse of SVB
Some conspiratorial social media users connected the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank to Jeffery Epstein, the controversial financier and sex offender. These users, who predominantly belong to the right-wing (44.7% cohort participation) and far-right (11.7% cohort participation), suggested that the bank’s collapse was connected to a US Attorney General’s subpoena for JP Morgan Chase to turn over documents related to sex trafficking on Epstein’s personal island.
Narrative attacks now pose a significant threat to organizations that depend on customer trust and loyalty. In competitive sectors like banking and financial services, a high-profile incident can cause lasting damage to a brand's reputation. The results can be disastrous, as it was for Silicon Valley Bank. For a robust and rapid response, companies need preemptive narrative strategies to inform better decisions across cybersecurity, PR, and marketing when crises emerge. AI narrative intelligence solutions like Blackbird.AI empower security, communications, and brand teams with analytics and recommendations to help safeguard corporate interests and consumer trust.
It’s important to note that a broad spectrum of issues contributed to Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse. Knowing about these narratives would not have prevented the crash. However, partners, customers, and other organizations in the bank’s ecosystem could have seen the narrative risks and made decisions faster using Blackbird.AI’s Constellation Narrative Intelligence Platform.
To learn more about how Blackbird.AI can help in these situations, contact us here.
Blackbird.AI helps organizations detect and respond to threats that cause reputational and financial harm. Powered by their AI-Driven Narrative & Risk Intelligence Constellation Platform, organizations can proactively understand risks and threats to their reputation in real-time. Blackbird.AI was founded by a team of experts from artificial intelligence, and national security, with a mission to defend authenticity and fight narrative manipulation. Recognized by Forrester as a "Top Threat Intelligence Company," Blackbird.AI's technology is used by many of the world's largest organizations for strategic decision making
BALANCING THE COMPLEXITIES OF ONLINE DISCOURSE
While all these recommendations seem to be sound, the likelihood that these measures can be agreed upon and implemented are becoming increasingly less likely in the U.S. and around the world. In fact, we have been moving in the opposite direction. Platforms have begun to roll back access for research communities, decrease moderation around misinformation, or strike down moderation altogether in the name of freedom of expression. The very notion of banning a popular platform in the U.S. would have seemed unthinkable a few short years ago, with organizations like the ACLU strongly voicing that a ban on TikTok would violate the First Amendment.