Silicon Valley, we must #DisruptHate

Not enough.

We’re in a crisis and it’s time to start acting like it. The time for cute little “go vote” graphics has passed. People’s civil liberties and personal safety are at stake.

While there is plenty of blame to put on the media, they no longer control us. The Rupert Murdochs no longer have a monopoly on the public psyche. Instead, technologists—designers, developers, product managers—are in a unique position to affect public behaviors and beliefs. We are a small but powerful part of the 74.5% of eligible voters that didn’t vote for Trump. We can help correct the trajectory of this nation.

Build ethical features

The apps we build give humans superpowers. They amplify empathy and enable compassion. Used against our intentions, they can also amplify bigotry, hate speech, and violence. No longer can we be a neutral party in the name of freedom of speech or any other cop-out. It is our obligation to protect marginalized groups.

For example, Nextdoor reduced racial profiling by 75% by testing, iterating, and tracking metrics on their report-a-crime feature the same way most tech companies optimize their signup or payment flows. Airbnb recently addressed discrimination with a mandatory “inclusion and respect” policy and is threatening to ban any host who does not abide.

How Nextdoor combats racial profiling

Think about products you build or use. How can they be more opinionated? More ethical?

Uplift the marginalized

My job once required me to design a paid feature for salespeople to collect leads through our product. To say I was disinterested in the project is an understatement. The project manager, sensing my lack of satisfaction and desire to build something more impactful, said “Imagine all the people you’re helping — they’re gonna get a raise for making their sales quotas and can send their kids to a better college.” Which led to this tweet:

Stop solving #FirstWorldProblems. Further empowering the patriarchy only increases the divide between the privileged and the marginalized. Take a look at the top 5 new products on election day:

The top 5 products from ProductHunt on Election Day are mostly #FirstWorldProblems

Where are the products for organizing protests? Creating and printing Black Lives Matter signs? Applying for immigration? There are certainly some products achieving these goals (perhaps a topic for a future post) but not much making the front page of Product Hunt. This needs to change starting today. There is much to be addressed.

Expand “Safe Spaces”

The uptick in [trigger warning] violence and hate speech has already begun. While the term “safe spaces” usually applies to LGBTQ+-friendly groups in colleges, these need to be vastly expanded to include anyone who feels threatened by the new status quo, anywhere. There’s an opportunity for every location-based app to provide this information. Any person, business, or organization violating a person’s right to a safe space should be swiftly penalized or removed entirely from our platforms.

If Yelp can add a PokéStop filter, surely it can add a Safe Space filter.

MisterB&B is an example creating safe spaces for gay men to travel. There are much more marginalized groups that need apps like this. (And hopefully Airbnb’s new policies help make them less necessary.)

Use available resources

If you build tech products for a living, you probably have a good understanding of the landscape of products and services out there.

IRL

Use that knowledge to empower the movement. Rush deliver stickers and decals from StickerMule for a local protest. Use pocket projectors to display messages. Order bulk battery packs to keep activists’ phones charged. Create light-up memorials with LEDs and solar panels. As you discover new products, ask “how can this #DisruptHate?”

Online

Use your understanding of online marketing to support social justice causes. You don’t need anyone’s permission. I’ve advertised multiple protests on Facebook and paid around 12 cents per event response. Cross-post events between Facebook and Nextdoor. Convert text to imagery and post to Instagram.

I’m paying 12 cents per event response for this ad right now

The critical moment is now

History can look at this week as a turning point towards bigotry. It can make parallels between this and the 1932 elections in Germany that brought Hitler to power. Or, it can show our children that we didn’t give in; that the empathy and compassion of Americans on all coasts and throughout bubbled up to a point where we said “no more.” It can mark the beginning of something akin to the Civil Rights Movement, but with all the amazing advancements in technology, science, and distribution of capital we have at our disposal today.


I wrote this quickly because timing is crucial. I’ll be updating the post and will be grateful for feedback, comments, and suggestions. Some links include referral codes that give you a discount and me credit; I will use any compensation from these referrals to support the causes mentioned here.


If you can only do one thing today, consider making a monthly donation to the ACLU.