From The Newsletter: Big Tech Toes The Line On Criminal Justice Response

Key insights: 

  • Racialized criminal justice issues in the U.S. put companies in a position to take a stand. 
  • Big tech companies are relatively silent in the wake of the Ahmaud Arbery verdict, a vastly different stance from George Floyd.
  • GofundMe was criticized by some for new policies adopted after the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.

The environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) requirements of large tech companies demand they set standards for non-financial measures of performance. While these factors can encompass everything, from mitigating environmental impact to pay parity among diverse employees, ESG frameworks may not explicitly outline how a company should respond to a criminal justice issue. 

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder last year,  there seemed to be an overwhelming response from big tech companies in support of Black Lives Matter and racial justice reform. But the Kyle Rittenhouse case elicited a response from tech giantGoFundMe that seemed to contradict a pro-people of color stance. 

GoFundMe updated its terms of service for fundraising for legal defense of an alleged violent crime after the Rittenhouse verdict. Since Rittenhouse was acquitted, raising funds for him does not violate GoFundMe policy. For many, this was a misstep. 

Last week as many celebrated a guilty verdict for the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery in a rare moment of justice, there is still relative silence from major corporations.

Big tech’s response to criminal justice issues impacting the Black community has been taken with a grain of salt and apt skepticism. Simply appearing on the right side of history could mitigate a public relations crisis while avoiding doing any actual work towards racial equity. Well-intentioned racial equity giving may never make it into the communities it targets or be misappropriated away. 

How companies respond to justice is just as telling as to how they respond in the face of tragedy. This year has demonstrated how many big tech companies are toeing the line on their response to criminal justice.

Monica Melton

Monica Melton is the managing editor of The Plug Insights. She previously covered innovation, technology, and venture capital at Forbes. She has also covered politics at POLITICO, entertainment for Time Out New York, but her most fascinating beat has been covering the intersection of technology, finance, and entrepreneurship. She is an alumna of CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Washington.