Silicon Valley Startups and Tech Giants Take Unified Stance Against Racist Groups

This seems to be the year when global companies are taking a public stance on socio-political issues.

In what may seem like a case of brand activism, leading American transportation network companies Uber and Lyft may just be regarded as the ride-hailing apps of the resistance.

Uber’s stand condemning the hate, discrimination and violence that erupted during the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia has been clearly articulated by company representatives. On the other hand, Lyft’s co-founders, John Zimmer and Logan Green, have also conveyed their stand against the violence that boiled over in Charlottesville.

An email disseminated to the Lyft employee force that was picked up by publications stated, “We are sickened by these events..” The correspondence also mentioned an ideal vision of a world  “where everyone can belong, where individuals are safe and supported no matter who they are” and how turning this into a reality entails a lot of hard work.

The email also mentioned that hurtful rhetoric and racist behavior are things that community members may deal with in everyday life.

The email continued that such forms of hate, or hate in any form, “has no place in our society.”

Marketing strategists have noted that when it comes to making public corporate statements, particularly those directed at national policies or laws and actions of the highest officials of the land, it is crucial to connect the declarations to the mission, brand purpose or values.

Several companies reacted strongly, for instance, in response to Trump’s executive order banning refugees and immigrants from entering the US. Corporate executives state it was antithetical to both their corporate and nation’s core values.

The Silicon Valley startup culture — in the minds of many who have raised howls of protest or complaints about the leadership and policy issues at both Uber and Lyft — may have gone off-center at times.

Nonetheless, firms making their voices heard rather than staying mum on issues that threaten the values adhered to by a community has become the norm.

Tech giants taking firm stance against racist groups

Taking a stand has become common practice among tech giants or key players in Silicon Valley.  In the aftermath of the deadly clashes between white supremacists and left-wing counter protesters, several established companies denounced hate-spawned violence and racism

Knowing that it takes a unified group effort to deny extremist groups an online platform, tech giants like Microsoft, Google, Apple and several others have adopted low- to zero tolerance policies for individuals and entities perpetuating hate speeches, racism and violence.

One such entity, The Daily Stormer, was blocked by Google for violating the latter’s terms of service. Beforehand, GoDaddy had notified the neo-Nazi site to find another provider after it featured an article mocking Heather Heyer, who met an untimely demise while protesting at the white supremacy rally.

Meanwhile, social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram have removed accounts that violate their hate speech policies.

Among those banned by Reddit and Facebook is Physical Removal, a group noted for promotion of racist ideologies.

Though Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that the company would be vigilant in removing posts that promote hate crimes or acts of terrorism, users of the social networking site had shared 65,000 times the article that attacked Heyer featured on The Daily Stormer site. Steps to remove the shares, with the exception of those that had a caption denouncing it, were only made later on.

Some of the other big companies that underscored their commitment to remaining vigilant against the advancement of hate, intolerance and violence on their platforms are PayPal and GoFundMe. The latter shut down numerous attempts to raise funds for James Fields’ legal defense. Fields was the man who drove his vehicle into the crowd of counter-protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many.

Trump’s response on Charlottesville issue

US President Donald Trump came under fire for stating in a press conference speech that referred to the appalling display of hatred, bigotry and violence at Charlottesville as emanating from “many sides.”

An email sent to employees by Apple CEO Tim Cook — that media got hold of — expressed disagreement with the President and his ilk “who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights.”

Cook noted that the terror of white supremacy and racist violence had been seen before, “It’s a moral issue – an affront to America. We must all stand against it,” he tweeted. The post drew several reactions. Some commented that they applaud CEOs of Merck and Under Armour for resigning from Advisory Council in protest of Trump’s weak response to Charlottesville.

Apple committed to match its employees’ donations to anti-discrimination and human rights groups until end-September 2017. The tech giant had also pledged one million dollars each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella echoed the sentiments of many of the top brasses of technology firms. In her own missive to employees following the violence at Charlottesville, Nadella stated:

“There is no place in our society for the bias, bigotry, and senseless violence we witnessed… provoked by white nationalists. Our hearts go out to families and everyone impacted by the Charlottesville tragedy.”

The sincerity with which the tech industry leaders conveyed their messages may be what some felt was missing in Trump’s response to the Charlottesville tragedy. For his part, Trump lamented that media did not report that he did spoke forcefully against hatred, bigotry, violence, and divisiveness.

Trump put forward the idea that the counter protesters and the marchers bore equal responsibility for what happened. His statement was vague. He did not castigate the specific parties that, to his mind, caused violence to erupt. It was only after the onslaught of criticisms that the White House clarified Trump’s statement as referring to extremist groups.

Discerning minds would later on recall that even during his campaign trail, Trump was just as vague when it came to censuring some of the white nationalists and other extremists who had come to endorse him. The unsettling thing about what media entities observed as pandering on Trump’s part is that it emboldened white supremacists who interpreted the US President’s statements favorably.

What do you think about the stand against racism that these companies are taking? It is limiting free speech, or taking measures to improve society for the better good? Let us know in the comments below.

Ellie Martin is a founding coordinator for Startup Change Group. Her works have been featured on Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Girls in Tech, among others. You may connect with her on Twitter.