Cambridge Analytica & Why Diversity In Tech Matters

Written by Ann Brown

The story of Cambridge Analytica’s involvement with Facebook and the accessing of data for millions of Facebook users is troubling. But as Leah Wright Rigueur and Bärí A. Williams wrote in a blog for Huffington Post, the whole incident illustrates why diversity in tech really does matter.

“While the deliberate political marginalization of racial minorities hasn’t changed over the decades, what has become increasingly clear as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica offered their alarming and convoluted narratives is that the technology that allows politicos to target these groups has evolved dramatically,” Rigueur and Williams wrote.

Rigueur is a historian and assistant professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and author of “The Loneliness of the Black Republican.” Williams previously served as lead counsel for Facebook and created its supplier diversity program.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently testified before Congress about political, digital, and privacy abuses enabled by Facebook. Much of the controversy centers about the social media giant’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica, a data and political consulting firm that worked extensively on the president’s 2016 campaign. Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed the private information of some 87 million Facebook users.

“In doing so, Cambridge Analytica provided the means for the Trump campaign not only to activate likely supporters but to influence minorities not to vote at all. (While Congress and the public are still sorting out the details, these efforts to depress minority voter turnout paralleled the campaign of “information warfare” orchestrated by Russia’s Internet Research Agency during the presidential contest.),” reported the Huffington Post.

Of course, this isn’t the only time efforts have been made to discourage the minority vote. “During the 1964 presidential election, for instance, a Republican consultant was indicted on charges of electoral fraud after he distributed more than a million misleading leaflets that claimed Martin Luther King Jr. wanted Black voters to write in his name for president,” Rigueur and Williams wrote.

And in 1980, Ronald Reagan had consultants who came up with a strategy of “holding down the black turnout.”

“Cambridge Analytica’s ability to target marginalized groups of voters was only possible because Facebook completely overlooked the potential for a nefarious organization to do so. This oversight, in the face of a long and glaring history of such attempted exploits, is a symptom of an industry culture that prioritizes speed and deprioritizes the lives of users in general, but racial minorities in particular. That, in turn, is a reflection of the absence of diversity in Silicon Valley, especially in leadership and policymaking positions,” Rigueur and Williams wrote.

Keep in mind, that according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reminds us that only 1 percent of management in Silicon Valley is black. And only just recently, Facebook named its first black director, Ken Chenault, to the board.

“Diversity is imperative at the highest levels in tech. Companies must elevate the opinions, suggestions and thought leadership of minorities, particularly around ideation, testing and implementation of new products. If they can’t do it quickly within the leadership, do it through supplier diversity programs and hire consultants to provide this information,” Rigueur and Williams concluded.

diversity in tech
FERGUSON, MO – NOVEMBER 04: Residents cast their votes at a polling place on November 4, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. In last Aprils election only 1,484 of Ferguson’s 12,096 registered voters cast ballots. Community leaders are hoping for a much higher turnout for this election. Following riots sparked by the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer, residents of this majority black community on the outskirts of St. Louis have been forced to re-examine race relations in the region and take a more active role in the region’s politics. Two-thirds of Fergusons population is African American yet five of its six city council members are white, as is its mayor, six of seven school board members and 50 of its 53 police officers. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

 

 

 

diversity in tech
WASHINGTON, USA – APRIL 11: Facebook co-founder, Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill April 11, 2018 in Washington, DC. This is the second day of testimony before Congress by Zuckerberg, 33, after it was reported that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm linked to the Trump campaign. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

 

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About Ann Brown
Ann Brown has been a freelance writer for more than two decades. Her work has appeared in CocoaFab, Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire.com, New York Trend, Upscale, Moguldom, AFKInsider, The Network Journal, Playboy, Africa Strictly Business, For Harriet, Pathfinders, Black Meetings & Tourism, Frequent Flier, Girl, Honey, Source Sports, The Source, Black Radio Exclusive, and Launch. She studied journalism at New York University and has her B.A. Born in New York, Ann lived in Praia, Cabo Verde, for nearly a decade. She created “An American In Cabo Verde,” a Facebook community.