Power

Tech talks the protest talk. Will it walk the walk?

Over the weekend, the tech industry rushed to lend words of support to those protesting against racial injustice. Action was in shorter supply.

Police officers intervene in protests, held against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in New York last night.

Police officers intervene in protests, held against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, in New York last night.

Photo: Mostafa Bassim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Google added a note to its homepage over the weekend: "We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it." YouTube's homepage showed a video called "Stand Against Racial Injustice."

  • And Sundar Pichai tweeted: "Today on U.S. Google & YouTube homepages we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don't have a voice. For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone."

All weekend, tech companies were posting similar messages, supporting those protesting against racial injustice:

  • Tim Cook told Apple employees that it's time to step up: "At Apple, our mission has and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better. We've always drawn strength from our diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone. But together, we must do more."
  • Twitter changed its logo to a black bird, and offered tips for people to better follow the protests happening across the U.S. all weekend. Jack Dorsey spent the weekend tweeting and retweeting about what was happening, while the company's Twitter Together team shared information on what allies can do.
  • Airbnb's Brian Chesky said "Black lives matter. We stand with those using their voices and peacefully calling for justice, fairness and racial equality."
  • Amazon tweeted that "The inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop." AWS CEO Andy Jassy wondered what it'll take and "how many people must die" before things change.
  • Not that the numbers really matter, but Netflix had the brand-tweet everyone was sharing: "To be silent is to be complicit. Black lives matter. We have a platform, and we have a duty to our Black members, employees, creators and talent to speak up."
  • There were many more statements, too — here's one really good list of what different companies have said.

An interesting thing happened in response to all these tweets (I mean, other than the predictable politics and fighting): People asked tech companies what they were going to do about it; how they'd put their money where their mouth is.

  • A good example: All those brand statements became a meme, ridiculing the generic corporate messages, in record time.
  • Away's Jen Rubio and Slack's Stewart Butterfield got a lot of praise on Sunday night after announcing they're giving away $700,000 to 10 different social-justice groups.
  • But in general, people wanted tech companies and executives to do more.

After the last few days, in which we've also seen Facebook employees speak out against Mark Zuckerberg's decision to not moderate Trump's tweets, the chorus is only getting louder in asking tech companies to take more action, spend more money, and pick more fights in support of their values.

These questions are bigger than social, bigger than moderation, and bigger than Trump even. They're about what tech companies are supposed to do, and be, and represent in the world. And I don't think they're going away.

This article first appeared in the Source Code newsletter this morning. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every morning.

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