Tech companies have enabled harassment and racism instead of ending it. Here’s how.
Deanna Zandt, author of Share This, and I once debated on the possible utopia of social media. She was so excited in the beginning including how we could become more understanding of each other because we would be connected in ways we couldn’t before because, of technology. I was stuck in my cynical version of the world. As a woman of color, utopias aren’t real. They were our hopes and dreams, but not in my opinion centered in reality. Technology is built and created by humans, since humans build it, it will always include the bias they exist in. Hence my hashtag #NoTechFix4HumanBehavior. Though technology can present different forms of innovation, it also reveals to us how much things remain remarkably the same.
When I was harassed and attacked during my panel picker promotion for SXSW 2016 those in the industry including some of SXSW staff thought my complaints were minimal. They were not alarmed by my concerns for safety, which is very common. They didn’t just ignore and silence me, they gave my attackers a platform in the name of “balance.” I was living through threats, hacks and attacks but it was all being compared to “opinions,” “disagreements,” “difference of opinions,” and of course “freedom of speech.” It has been and is still the slipperiest of slopes.
These companies are turning their innovation over to those that want to take us back past, the Internet’s original inception, protection. That’s NOT innovation but regression. As Hidden Figures is finally being released this year we learn that during the “1960s” black women help change our American version of innovation but the NEW tech companies have spent decades attempting to ignore our intellect and understanding of what the future should really look like.
Here is one of many examples I’ve collected of how tech and social networking companies are participating in the crazy idea of going back to 1950, when the internet didn’t exist. And, by the way to all those using Twitter, FaceBook, email and other forms of the Net that say “let’s go back to 1950,” you realize you couldn’t be saying this here, right?
Leslie Mac recently went through this very difficult experience with Facebook. The thing is, this wasn’t a unique experience in of itself it was unique because Matt Mcgorry also shared her post. Matt unpublished it after he realized how much her simple statement was received dramatically different from how she intended. He admitted to Leslie that he had previously shared updates from her but never received these kind of reactions after this post on FaceBook:
Leslie shared her experience with me, those that commented on Matt’s post are now removed because he deleted it. Those that have commented under the TechCrunch version of the story have indeed responded almost identical to the comments under Matt’s post.
The comments Leslie, the co-founder of SafetyPinBox, received included the following:
“Build your own” — this comment is the same as many statements of the past. If you don’t like it here go home or build your own community.
“Posts like yours is the reason racism exist” — the fact that she is talking about racism is the reason racism exists. It’s a combative approach that racism will go away if we just stop talking about it. The colorblind framework. FYI colorblind is a disease.
You see, if we (women of color/ people of color), discuss racism publicly we are called racists. That somehow, NOT mentioning the racism we face daily, is the only way to fight racism. It’s absurd. Actually, this tactic is used to continue to keep us from talking and having a real dialogue about racism. Saying “white folks” or “white people” is the same as saying the N-word or referring to people of color as animals like apes and monkeys is a false equivalence. And it’s being used to silence those that speak up and out about these issues.
Desiree Adaway who works professionally with having difficult conversations about race was also banned. She was banned under the hidden concept that she shared the content that was posted in an article on Buzzfeed that depicts women’s bodies with the sexist words of the President-elect. Though many others shared this article and the photos in solidarity none of them were banned. Desiree was banned because of her vocal and powerful words empowering women, in particular black women.
Her words were shared by others when she was banned:
If the tech industry wants to be innovative and more forward thinking they need to go back to the drawing board. Increasing diversity in their product development isn’t the only place it’s needed. There needs to be a equal amount inclusion in their management of how they handle banning those who are violating their terms of service. Kimberly Ellis, Dr. Goddess, wrote and article on this during the time celebrities were leaving because of the online violence and vitriol they were receiving, Time for Twitter to pull from its (diverse) ranks.
Yes, that means becoming more inclusive about safety and privacy online in their designs and planning for it in advance not after the fact. What’s happening to these women is showing us that the old system has failed. However, as I said before women of color are the canaries in the coal mine. They need to be listened to with the intention to catch the problems before they get out of control. If not we will begin to find that innovation is a thing of the past.