In the wake of widespread protests over the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minnesota last week, leaders of America’s largest tech companies have begun to make public statements addressing both the incident and the larger problem of systemic racism. For the most part, they have expressed condolences for the tragic incident and offered donations to national groups doing the hard work of dismantling racist systems.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai was the first to order a company-level response. On Friday, he wrote a company memo announcing an internal campaign to raise funds for organizations supporting racial justice. He also promised that Google would match any employee contribution up to $10,000.
Facebook and Apple quickly followed suit by pledging to support racial justice groups and match employee donations. Facebook said it would donate $10 million to organizations recommended by employees and the company’s “civil rights advisors.” And Apple has pledged to match employee contribution two-for-one in the month of June to support several social groups.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Zuckerberg praised Darnella Frazier, who recorded and posted the video of Floyd’s death on Facebook, saying that, “as hard as it was to watch, we all needed to see that.” Apple’s Cook wrote in a company memo on Monday, calling employees to reflect on America’s painful history of racism and inequality.
Even Elon Musk, who was occupied with SpaceX’s NASA launch for the most of last week, found time to engage in a timely Twitter conversation on Monday about Floyd and tweeted “#JusticeForGeorge.”
Definitely not right that the other officers were charged with nothing. What message does this send in general to officers who stand by while another does wrong? #JusticeForGeorge
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2020
Jeff Bezos, although yet to make a statement through Amazon, shared an essay by the writer Shenequa Golding about the difficulty of maintaining professionalism while witnessing Black death on Instagram on Saturday. “The pain and emotional trauma caused by the racism and violence we are witnessing toward the Black community has a long reach,” Bezos wrote. “I recommend you take a moment to read this powerful essay, especially if you are a manager or leader.”
On Monday, Amazon’s official Twitter account posted a statement that read, “The inequitable and brutal treatment of Black people in our country must stop. Together we stand in solidarity with the Black community—our employees, customers, and partners—in the fight against systematic racism and injustice.”
— Amazon (@amazon) May 31, 2020
However, watchdogs were quick to call out what they called Amazon’s hypocrisy.
“Funny coming from the company that fired a Black man for asking for safer working conditions during [COVID-19], sells Nazi flags and remains the last large advertiser on Breitbart, which once featured a ‘Black Crime’ section, despite being asked to stop by 600+ of your diverse workers,” replied Sleep Giants, a liberal social media activism group, under Amazon’s tweet.
Other companies’ gesture of sympathy faced similar blowback.
Zuckerberg’s message, for example, “seems to have the opposite effect that was intended,” wrote New York Times tech reporter Mike Issac, “as insiders saw Facebook executives throwing money at the problem.”
Also on Monday, a group of Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg’s decision last week to keep President Donald Trump’s inflammatory posts advocating for violence against black demonstrators on the company’s platform.
“Along with Black employees in the company, and all persons with a moral conscience, I am calling for Mark to immediately take down the President’s post advocating violence, murder and imminent threat against Black people,” a Facebook employee participating in the protest wrote in an internal message board, according to The New York Times.