Tech’s Whiteness Is the Problem. Are We the Solution?

By Amy L. Alexander, The Root

Last week, Twitter said it was “pausing” to reconsider the process by which it bestows the blue checkmark denoting accounts that had been “verified,” and on Wednesday the company announced it was yanking the designation from some users who occupy the neo-Nazi or nationalist bucket of grassroots white activism. The announcements came after many users, including The Root’s Monique Judge, raised hell when Twitter gavea blue checkmark to Jason Kessler, a white nationalist who helped plan the pro-Confederacy march last August in Charlottesville, Va.

While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and his workers ruminated on the company’s account verification policies, I decided it was a good time for us to pause and think about our relationship with Twitter and other social media and technology companies. We voluntarily “contribute” our creative insights, dollars and labor to the success of these companies by buying devices and apps, uploading memes, ideas and language that trends widely. Yet in terms of the vast wealth these companies hold, disburse to employees and generate for shareholders, we get little in return.

Think of the recent moment where top lawyers for Google and its parent company, Alphabet, along with Twitter and Facebook, were summoned to Capitol Hill to testify before Senate and House committees looking into the company’s role in disseminating toxic content and ads during the 2016 presidential election cycle.

(L-R) Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, Twitter Acting General Counsel Sean Edgett, and Google Law Enforcement and Information Security Director Richard Salgado testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee, October 31, 2017. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anti-black messaging was the secret-sauce of many of the pro-Trump, nationalist memes and messages that flooded through the popular social media channels during the 2016 election cycle. Yet somehow, the gatekeepers at Facebook and Twitter didn’t seem to notice the methodical manipulation of racial animus that already exists in America, specifically, some white Americans’ negative opinions of blacks.

The leaders and staffs of Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media platforms missed the Russian’s exploitation of the black-white divide, an obliviousness that has precedent: black women users had long alerted Twitter officials to abusive conduct of other users, up to and including death threats. The hashtag #YourSlipIsShowing catalogs such experiences from black women dating back several years, and is readily available…at least to those interested in learning about and addressing these kind of user experiences.

But clearly, the tech company leaders were not inclined to pay attention to this area of user complaints, a strong indication that they also probably weren’t interested in the views of the few blacks and Latinx workers at their companies, either. Just look at what happened to Leslie Miley, a black former engineer at Twitter. Miley revealed in a recent interview that he had flagged tons of dubious accounts in 2015, telling his bosses that he believed they were from Ukraine or Russia, and that they appeared to be part of a coordinated campaign.

Miley was told by his bosses at Twitter to “stay in his lane,” a response that Miley says he took as a sign that the company leadership preferred to err on the side “growth numbers,” rather than on any potential harm to audiences that the bots might pose.

Meanwhile, black users of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Google products infuse them with a deep coolness factor that resonates around the world. Our intellectual property and creativity is the lifeboat that floats these companies to revenue solvency, yet few of us share in the enormous economic wealth generated by these companies, not even after dozens of news stories, industry conferences, and activist’s complaints forced the companies to pledge to improve hiring and retention.

Black Americans know when something smells rotten, including the kinds of scams and shady BS that can unfold at one’s job. And, as usual, blacks and other marginalized communities have solutions. We have the brain-power, problem-solving acumen, and moral fortitude to right the ship of state.

The question is whether our concerns and advice will be heeded, and whether we can achieve full access to the genuine levers of power in the United States, including access to quality education, healthcare, voting and, most importantly in the context of the innovation ecosystem, investment capital.

Read the full article here.

It’s not just the Tech industry, either. Read how one company is beginning to acknowledge its racist past here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Here’s Why You Need To Know About The 1917 Silent Parade

By Taryn Finley, huffingtonpost.com

Via Google

The anti-lynching protest became known as the first mass demonstration by African Americans….

Google commemorated the 100th anniversary of the anti-lynching Silent Parade with a doodle on its homepage Friday….

Women and children marched in the front, wearing white to represent innocence in the midst of the country’s racism, according to the Miami Herald. The men marched in the back, dressed in dark suits as a symbol of mourning and their willpower to fight for their rights.

Protesters demanded President Woodrow Wilson take action to protect the rights and livelihood of African Americans. They carried signs reading “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” “Your Hands Are Full of Blood” and “Mothers, do lynchers go to heaven?”…

Just a few weeks prior to the march, racial tensions grew thick among the black and white workers in East St. Louis, Illinois. For 24 hours, white mobs burned homes and killed any black person they could find, regardless of age, gender or ability.

The mob killed about 200 people while the remaining 6,000 black residents fled their homes to escape the violence, according to Yale’s Beinecke Library.

The Silent Parade became known as the first mass demonstration by African Americans. The New York Times described it as “one of the most quiet and orderly demonstrations ever witnessed,” per the Herald. The silence was only broken when the march ended. Even without chants or songs, the Silent Parade set the tone for how black people protest today.

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.

Google Launches ‘Lynching In America’ Project Exploring Country’s Violent Racial History

By Zeba Blay, huffingtonpost.com

GOOGLE/EJI. “Confronting the legacy of racial terror.”

The history of lynching and racial terror in America is the focus of an ambitious new project launched Tuesday by Google, in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative.

Google has helped create a new interactive site titled “Lynching in America,” which is based on an 80-page publication by the EJI. Its research has been adapted into a powerful visual narrative about the horror and brutality that generations of black Americans have faced.

The site consists of audio stories from the descendants of lynching victims, and a documentary short called “Uprooted,” which chronicles the impact of lynching on black families. The project also includes an interactive map that details locations of racial terror lynchings, complete with profiles of the victims and the stories behind their deaths….

“Google has been able to take what we know about lynching, and what we have heard from the families, and what we have seen in the spaces and the communities where these acts of terror took place, and make that knowledge accessible to a lot more people,” said Bryan Stevenson, founder of EJI, in a press release. “To create a platform for hearing and understanding and seeing this world that we’ve lived through.”

To read the full article click here.

To learn more about this project click here.

To read more Breaking news click here.

Google partners with Howard University to develop future black engineers

From: The Grio

Recently, Google announced the beginning of a new program partnered with Howard University. The new program is part of an effort to recruit more young black minds and promote greater diversity in the engineering industry.

As The Grio writes in their article,Howard has opened a campus at the Googleplex, called Howard West, ‘a physical space on campus where Howard students and Googlers can grow together,’ and hopefully will encourage diversity in a field that sorely needs it.”from Google/Justin Sullivan via Good Black News

from Google/Justin Sullivan via Good Black News

This program stands as a step in the right direction, advancing the diversification of Silicon Valley while investing in the futures of young black men and women. Google has hopes to expand the program to other Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

To read more about the program, or for more information on Howard University and Google’s new partnership, head here.

Read more about the importance of community diversification and understanding past-to-present racial segregation here.

Google Celebrates Black History Today

By Breanna Edwards, TheRoot.com

Something is different about today’s Google landing page. In the middle of the search engine’s logo, there’s the soft image of a smiling woman wearing a signature hat atop her curls.0321-doodle_full_600

It is Dr. Dorothy Irene Height, dubbed the “godmother of the civil rights movement,” as President Barack Obama aptly put it when mourning her passing four years ago.

Although a major contributor in the movement, the iconic Height is often left out when Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and other greats are mentioned. So it was pleasant, and only fitting, that Google presented the world with a beautiful doodle on what would’ve been her 102nd birthday, March 24.

Height is credited with convincing President Dwight Eisenhower to desegregate schools. She was one of the driving forces behind President Lyndon Johnson’s appointments of black women to government, and she walked in lockstep with first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to spotlight women’s rights. She even shared the platform with Dr. King when he delivered his unforgettable “I Have a Dream” speech.imgres

For her work she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, followed by the Congressional Gold Medal ten years later.

In 2010, the nation lost Height at the age of 98. She was one of the greatest black women leaders ever to have graced us with her presence. Her memory and all she fought for should be far from forgotten, as Google reminds us today.

Read the article here.

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