Tech leaders condemn tech’s role in elevating white supremacy

A group of tech leaders has banded together to speak out against white supremacy and rampant hate speech on tech platforms. The group, Build Tech We Trust, refers to itself as a collective of tech CEOs, activists, changemakers and workers who are committed to countering hate and terrorism.

In a public letter published today, Project Include CEO Ellen Pao, Code2040 CEO Karla Monterroso, ReadySet CEO Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Project Include founding member Erica Baker, Block Party CEO Tracy Chou and others make a call to hold tech platforms accountable and build tech everyone can trust.

“We did this because we have a deep belief that there are more people on the right side of history on this than on the side of violent white supremacists,” Monterroso told TechCrunch. “In times of great pain and risk, we all need to be united together. So we wanted to both ensure tech’s role in this is clear and give us an opportunity to get aligned.”

Despite platitudes by tech CEOs that their respective platforms are designed to bring the world together and foster connection, these platforms too often cause harm and “are radicalizing and fragmenting communities by providing an unprecedented ability to coordinate attacks and amplify hate,” the letter states.

That’s not to say that tech companies have done nothing to try to combat hate speech and white supremacy, but what they’ve done just hasn’t been enough. In June, former ACLU Washington Director Laura Murphy said Facebook’s white supremacy policy, despite some changes, was still too narrow. Meanwhile, stories have recently emerged regarding how people become radicalized on YouTube.

The letter comes shortly after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, where many of the victims were either Latinx or black. Tech leaders in the letter also note other shootings where people were targeted because of their race, sexuality and/or religion, like the Pulse Nightclub shooting and Charleston church massacre.

“White supremacist terrorism and violence, fueled by racism and misogyny, and empowered by technology, is on the rise,” they write. “They’ve moved beyond their white robes and hoods to social media and public rallies where they radicalize and fund their growing membership. Our government leaders at the highest levels encourage and spread it. Our industry leaders enable and profit from it. Four of the five worst gun massacres in modern history have taken place over the past two years. Evidence shows that many of these shooters are inspired by white supremacist ideology and targeting marginalized people.”

The aim of the letter is to serve as a call to action to encourage their fellow technologists to build ethical and responsible tech platforms.

“Whether it be a walkout, refusing to build or buy tech that accelerates hate, calling out unfair anti-abuse policies that silence marginalized voices, or continuing to demand answers from those in positions of power, the time to act is now,” the leaders write.

You can read the full letter over on Build Tech We Trust.