Suffice to say that Facebook has been flooded with controversy since its inception. With its precursor FaceSmash.com – a website created by Mark Zuckerburg to rate the attractiveness of his women colleagues at Harvard – it’s easy to see that the bias, in this case misogyny, can easily be baked into the ethos of a technology. Facebook has faced ongoing criticism for its practices and inaction when it comes to dangerous speech (that often impact women and other minorities) – but Facebook certainly isn’t the only tech giant with this issue.
Earlier this month, The Representation Project’s Executive Director Soraya Chemaly spoke to Krys Boyd on KERA’s Think podcast. In the episode titled Big Tech Doesn’t Care About Your Safety, Soraya explored the ways in which big tech companies have fostered online environments that incite real-life violence – with no processes to regulate such issues. While Silicon Valley is dominated by white men, she mentions that the “white-male effect” could very well be at the root of these tech blindspots. Soraya elaborates on this effect in her piece co-written by writer Catherine Buni. In their recent Medium article, they state that, “studies have found that a specific subset of men, in the U.S. mostly white, with higher status and a strong belief in individual efficacy, are prone to accept new technologies with greater alacrity while minimizing their potential threats.”
While women, people of color, and other minority groups have long been vocal about the threats they experience online, there has been little to no action taken to address this. And with white men overrepresented in positions of power, it’s hard to imagine things will change without more inclusive leadership. Given the frequency of tech abuse followed by a reactive response from companies like Facebook, Snapchat, and Zoom, we can expect one thing: “An apology and vows ‘to do better.’ It’s a wash-rinse-repeat cycle that spans decades.”
Take action! One of the ways to take action against tech’s inaction is to stay informed and vigilant. Listen to the entire Big Tech Doesn’t Care About Your Safety episode. Read Soraya Chemaly and Catherine Buni’s Medium article HERE.