Avi Schiffmann, a self-taught programmer, working in a conference room at the Mercer Island Library March 6. File photo

Avi Schiffmann, a self-taught programmer, working in a conference room at the Mercer Island Library March 6. File photo

Mercer Island teen, who went viral for his COVID-19 dashboard, launches new website

2020Protests.com compiles state-specific resources relevant to recent police-brutality protests.

Avi Schiffmann, the 17-year-old Mercer Island high schooler who went viral earlier this year for launching the comprehensive coronavirus tracker nCoV2019.live, has debuted a new website: 2020Protests.com.

The site, which Schiffmann announced June 2 on Twitter, aggregates and continually updates resources and information relevant to the recent wave of police-brutality protests happening nationally in response to the police killing of George Floyd and other black Americans.

When they land on the site, users can click on a given state and be directed to links for that state’s key places to donate to, petitions to sign, protest locations, social-media pages to follow, quick facts (like local curfews to be aware of), if and where the National Guard has been deployed and, finally, updated COVID-19 statistics.

Also included in the main menu is a more extensive list of petitions and safety precautions to take.

Schiffmann first got the idea for the new website while at his family’s cabin a few days ago. Like most people, he was struck by the proliferation of demonstrations taking place across the nation.

“I just wanted to make something for the protests,” he said. “I tried to get it finished as fast as possible. There was just so much information to gather.”

To help with the arduous task of collecting state-specific information to include on the website, Schiffmann enlisted 13 high school students he’d met online from around the world. They combed through crucial info, and he did the programming.

While 2020Protests.com as it stands is currently a manual operation, Schiffmann said he’s planning on eventually converting it to a more sophisticated automatic system akin to his ongoing COVID-19 site. And as time goes on, he’s hoping to add international info, given that places like Canada, the United Kingdom and France have prominently shown solidarity in recent days.

As of June 3, 2020Protests.com has seen some 100,000 visitors.

“As time goes on, I think it will become more popular,” Schiffmann said. “I think it’s a really great resource…It took me a long time with [nCov2019.live] to get a large amount of visitors to that site — it took like a month to get to the first million.”

Articles in outlets like GeekWire and the Tacoma News Tribune announced 2020Protests.com’s debut almost immediately.

Schiffmann said that responses on social media have been mostly positive. As of the morning of June 3, his initial announcement on Twitter, through which he additionally asked for feedback and items to update, has been retweeted by 408 users and has been “favorited” by more than 1,300.

Some people have said that the site is “condoning violence,” since 2020Protests.com includes protest locations.

“I just like making places for people to find information,” Schiffmann said. “I’m not going to take sides or anything.”

Schiffmann’s work has turned him into something of a public figure. He recently won the 2020 Webby Person of the Year award and has been covered by major publications like The New Yorker, The Seattle Times, The New York Times and Business Insider. Notably, Schiffmann turned down an $8-million advertisement offer for his COVID-19 website, which was at that point receiving 30 million visitors on a daily basis, to keep his website ad-free.

Schiffmann noted the urgency with which both of his websites have been founded. Someday, he said, he aims to put out something like Facebook, which is not to say a social network but rather a website that “was just kind of something that was made and people will start using it.”

“These sites are based upon things that are very popular in the media that a lot of people are talking about — it’s not like I made a website about Legos or something like that,” he said. “It’s something that a lot of people in the United States are actively talking about. I mean, practically everyone is seeing these protests. That’s a good way to make something that is actually useful.”

Schiffmann said that other than a broad interest in launching an election-related resource in the future, he’s “just kind of working on whatever comes to mind” for now.

“I guess, right now, while I’m just sitting in my room, I’m just making random ideas,” Schiffmann said.

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