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Illustration by Arthur Jones who: (1) in lieu of payment, asked we donate to Campaign Zero and Portland Protest Bailout (you should too!) and (2) has directed one of the most urgent films of our time, “Feels Good Man,” released next month, that tells the astonishing story of This Mess We’re In (how to get out of it).

Today’s calls for ethical, humane, responsible, regulated and beneficial technology, compounded with venture capital’s virtue signaling in solidarity with Black lives, brings us to a critical crossroads for corporate America.

Yesterday, tech giant CEOs defended their companies before Congress against allegations of stealing, breaking antitrust laws, and fueling disinformation. “We’ve invested billions of dollars in moderating hate speech from the trillions we’ve made off of it,” is how Safiya Umoja Noble, PhD paraphrased Mark Zuckerberg’s tragicomic defense.

What are the consequences when corporations define what they deem to be “responsible”? Past mistakes can often predict the future.

We can learn from a grand corporate experiment that has unfolded over the last 30 years. In response to growing consumer consciousness about the goods and services we buy and the absence of government regulation, companies in a variety of sectors came together with civil society organizations to form “multi-stakeholder initiatives” (MSIs). These MSIs forged codes of conduct and developed oversight mechanisms to certify business practices were “sustainable,” “fair,” or “ethical” in order to counter widespread human rights abuses and environmental damage. Accepting these cosmetic half measures poses a grave threat to civil society. We don’t have the luxury of time to let it play out and then analyze the consequences.

About

Jennifer, Mara, Astrid & Aniyia

Jennifer Brandel, Mara Zepeda, Astrid Scholz & Aniyia Williams are the founding directors of Zebras Unite

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