We cannot hack racism and sexism out of a product – Shireen Mitchell
Unsurprisingly, today’s software works best for the people just like the programmers. This is a major limitation, since there’s a significant chunk of users who are not like these programmers, namely racial minorities, LGBTQ members and those with disabilities.
This leaves minorities feeling like second class citizens online. The fusion of social diversity and software aspects is the underlying theme of this panel.
To reinforce this concept, the panelists highlighted several cases where embedded racism, as well as sexism, made itself apparent within technology.
One major example dealt with Leslie Jones, a popular African-American comedian and actress who was attacked by trolls on Twitter after the 2016 release of Ghostbusters.
“Software did not defend her,” Mitchell said.
Because of harassment issues, investors have been wary of investing in Twitter.
The recent Uber sexual assault scandal was the another obvious example.
“It’s clear that their internal system had built a sexist organization and culture,” Mitchell said. “It was normal, it was normalized.”
In both of these cases, the lack of diversity within these tech companies is what contributes to these issues.
“We cannot hack racism and sexism out of a product,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell meant that technology alone can’t solve diversity issues. Companies have to make a conscience effort to engage with minorities to address social issues within their platforms.
“One person can’t solve it,” Pincus said.
Pincus said that tech companies have to make diversity a priority to lead to this change.