It was a message tailored to a politically divided audience. Erik Finman, the world’s youngest Bitcoin millionaire, produced a video on Twitter promoting a new type of smartphone that he claims will free Americans from their “Big Tech rulers.”
In July, he released a film that had powerful music, American flags, and tributes to former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump. Finman’s Freedom Phone was promoted by conservative pundits, and his video received 1.8 million views. Finman quickly received tens of thousands of orders for the $500 device.
He got involved in politics. He claimed to have been a libertarian from the age of 12. (The first time he heard about Bitcoin was at a rally for former presidential candidate Ron Paul.) When Donald Trump entered the national political scene, however, his politics changed. He confessed, “I drank the Kool-Aid in 2016.”
Mr. Finman said that during the next few years, he became concerned about what he saw as Silicon Valley’s censorship of conservative viewpoints. He also saw other Republicans who shared his concerns as a commercial opportunity. As a result, he set out to challenge Apple and Google’s dominance by developing a new right-wing smartphone.
However, he had to rely on Google to develop a smartphone. Google’s Android platform already works with millions of apps, and the corporation provides a free, open version for developers to tweak. So Mr. Finman paid experts to remove all traces of Google from the device and replace them with conservative social media and news apps. He then installed the software on phones he purchased in China.