What Now?

Ways to Take Action in Support of Black Lives; How Tech is Responding; Turmoil in Facebookistan; and much more.


With more than 10,000 people arrested across the country while peacefully demonstrating in protest of the murder of George Floyd and the ongoing and endemic problems of racism and police brutality, and with the President of the United States calling for “domination” and a harsh, military crackdown on protesters, we are in uncharted waters. Here are some resources to help people committed to democracy and anti-racism deal with the challenges of this moment:
 
Here’s a list of more than 100 bail funds, Black Lives Matter local groups, justice centers and related projects organized by state that you can donate to.
 
Progressives Everywhere has set up a unified donation portal on ActBlue to support bail funds for more than a dozen local organizations.
 
Here’s a bunch of useful protest resources for New York City-ers.  
 
Black Tech for Black Lives, a group of black tech leaders, have issued a set of action commitments that they are pledging to do and asking allies to do the same, including demanding accountability and systemic change in response to police murders of Black people, supporting groups advocating for police accountability, pressuring city police chiefs and union leaders, ensuring proportional representation in their hiring of Black employees, and electing progressive mayors, city councilmembers and district attorneys.
 
The TechEquity Collaborative, based in Oakland, has shared this statement: “Anti-Blackness is everywhere. Tech workers, let’s get to work.” Their commitments include working to remove exclusionary zoning rules that maintain segregated neighborhoods, establishing responsible contracting standards for the tech industry, and insuring that local communities have the funding they need.
 
Joy Buolamwini, Aaina Agarwal, Nicole Hughes, and Sasha Costanza-Chock of the Algorithmic Justice League, write on Medium that “We Must Fight Face Surveillance to Protect Black Lives,” noting that police are deploying increasingly sophisticated surveillance systems against protesters with little to no accountability or transparency.
 
Communities United for Police Reform, a coalition of 85 civil rights, labor, religious, and community organizations, is calling for the New York state legislature to repeal 50-A, which shields police misconduct records from public scrutiny. “We should be able to look up the misconduct and disciplinary records of every officer who mass-pepper sprayed, assaulted, blatantly covered their badge numbers and engaged in other abuse of authority and violence against New Yorkers,” they state.
 
Here’s a list of nearly 200 statements from tech companies on racial justice, curated by Sherrell Dorsey, Grace McFadden, and Ashley Stewart of The Plug, a black tech magazine.
 
Here’s a list of anti-racist civic tech projects, from the Civic Tech Field Guide.
 
Writing on Medium, data scientist DJ Patil shares his “rage, fear and confusion,” and details some of the unfinished business from his time in the Obama White House working on the Police Data Initiative and the Data-Driven Justice Initiative.
 
It’s time to defund the police and redirect their budgets to “emergency response programs that don’t kill black people,” Philip McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris write for The New York Times oped page.
 
Elucd has rolled out its Blockwise Policing Index, and it shows that police-community relations have deteriorated across most social groups in the past week, with the biggest change among young people ages 18-34, the proportion of which report feeling disrespected by police more than doubled over the previous week from 29% to 64%.
 
According to a new report from the Stanford Internet Observatory, there is no evidence, from their own research or the public research of others, “to suggest that the current protests have been driven by misinformation or foreign actors instead of legitimate grievances.”
 
In other news…
 
First, from the world of civic tech: Say hello to HealthyVoting.org, a collaboration of the American Public Health AssociationCenter for Civic DesignCenter for Tech and Civic LifeNational Association of County and City Health Officials, and We Can Vote that is building a suite of state-by-state guides to casting your ballot safely this year.
 
Here’s a thoughtful exploration of the hidden power dynamics of virtual meetings, conferences and workshops from Evelyn of Aspiration Tech, pointing out that a lot of the traditional models of sharing, where a few voices are privileged over the rest, are prevalent.
 
In a little-noticed development, voters in Washington DC who didn’t receive their requested absentee ballot were allowed to vote by email this past Tuesday, as Alex Howard reports. He notes, “It seems to have worked — for me. But offering  ‘vote by email’ to all would be risky at scale and require new investments in personnel, technology, and public engagement.”
 
New America’s Open Technology Institute released a new report by Spandana Signh and Koustubh Bagchi looking at how the major internet platforms are handling disinformation in the COVID age.
 
The Aspen Tech Policy Hub has announced the winners of its COVID-19 Challenge Grants.
 
Sign up: Alex Johnston is offering a six week intensive course in civic design.
 
How delivery apps are killing small restaurant businesses, reported by Maureen Tkacik in The Washington Post.
 
And from life in Facebookistan: Hundreds of Facebook employees staged a “virtual walkout” Monday to protest CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to do anything about inflammatory posts made by President Trump in the past week, Sheera Frenkel, Mike Isaac, Cecilia Kang and Gabriel J.X. Dance report for The New York Times.
 
And after years of holding their qualms to themselves, a group of nearly three dozen early Facebook employees, including our old friend Adam Conner, have written an open letter to their former colleague and boss Zuckerberg, urging him to reconsider his policy on political speech, “beginning by fact-checking politicians and explicitly labeling harmful posts.” You may not care for the obsequious tone of the letter, but so far calling Zuck an uneducated idiot hasn’t worked, maybe this will.
 
Remember the executive order Trump promised targeting social-media companies? Seems like that was a year ago. Zeynep Tufekci explains in The Atlantic why it was intended for just one person: Mark Zuckerberg.
 
On the last hand, this column by Siva Vaidhyanathan lays bare why Zuckerberg is aligning himself with Trump and refusing to back down: he “seems to love power more than he loves money or the potential to do good in the world.” Because he has decided he knows what is best for us, he listens only to himself.
 
End times: “In This Place (An America Lyric)” by National Youth Laureate Amanda Gorman. (h/t Nicco Mele)
 
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