In the days since George Floyd's death, the major technology companies and their leaders have made public statements expressing their solidarity with the black communities. The messages – actually press releases – condemn racism and call for unity. Some call at least George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Few say "Black Lives Matter" directly.
More importantly, many companies have donated millions to combat racial injustice.
Some of the richest companies in the world emerge at a moment when national attention is focused on racial injustices. But surely they must have appeared before? Less than six years ago, the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown spurred protests in Ferguson, Missouri. Many of the CEOs of these companies found time to publicly take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS. So you took a moment to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter in 2014, didn't you?
Let's compare the company's response today to that of six years ago. We researched the responses to the events of 2014 through online search, company news room review, and extensive social media accounts:
"We believe black lives are important," said a blog post that was released on June 3. Amazon is committed to "donating a total of $ 10 million to organizations committed to social justice and improving the lives of blacks and African Americans." Amazon's Black Employee Network also receives a grant to fund local organizations that support education and racial initiatives in communities across the country where our employees live and work.
Here is the tweet from Amazon, which is committed to solidarity with the black community.
On Instagram, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos encouraged his followers to read a medium article by Shenequa Golding.
We couldn't find any public responses from Amazon regarding the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Ferguson protests.
Apple chief Tim Cook published an open letter on the Apple website on June 4 entitled "Talking About Racism". In the letter, Cook made a number of commitments:
We commit to continue our work to bring critical resources and technologies to under-served school systems. We are committed to continuing to fight the forces of environmental injustice – such as climate change – that cause disproportionate harm to black communities and other color communities. We are committed to looking inside and driving progress in inclusion and diversity so that every great idea can be heard. And we donate to organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative that work against racial injustice and mass custody.
Cook shared a similar version of this letter with Apple employees on May 31, requiring Apple to match all employee donations made for June.
Cook also tweeted twice about Minneapolis:
Minneapolis mourns for a reason. To Dr. Paraphrasing King: The negative peace, which is the lack of tension, is not a substitute for the positive peace, which is the presence of justice. Justice is how we heal.
– Tim Cook (@tim_cook), May 29, 2020
Today, as Minneapolis gathers and the nation remembers George Floyd, we mourn a life that is in its prime and everything it represents. We are committed to putting grief into practice and we hope that one soul can still change the world.
– Tim Cook (@tim_cook), June 4, 2020
CEO Tim Cook shared a tweet from Pope Francis on the day of Michael Brown's death.
We were unable to find any other public responses from Apple regarding the death of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Ferguson protests. Here's what the Apple Newsroom looks like during this data:
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, committed in a Facebook post on May 31 to "provide an additional $ 10 million for groups committed to racial justice." He also noted that his philanthropic arm, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, has invested $ 40 million annually in organizations fighting racial injustices for "several years".
In a question and answer session in the town hall in December, Zuckerberg was asked about the role of social media in strengthening communities after Ferguson and other protests against the use of excessive police forces. He shared his answer publicly in a video. "I think we do two things: give everyone a voice and give them a wider variety of perspectives," said Zuckerberg in his contribution to the video.
While the debate over Ferguson and Eric Garner's tragic death continues, I'm often asked what role social media plays in empowering communities.
I think we do two things: give everyone a voice and offer a wider variety of perspectives.
This was one of the most important questions in our recent City Hall questions and answers, and you can see my answer in the video below.
Giving everyone a voice is relatively new to the world. Only in the past 10 years has the Internet enabled billions of people to share their views and experiences. I believe it is fundamental to give everyone this power to create more understanding around the world.
A wider variety of perspectives is also important to create understanding. Before the Internet, we may have received our news from only a few television channels or newspapers. Now we get updates from many more people and sources.
If you want to understand how the diversity of ideas works in social networks, read this document, which explains mathematically why you see more diverse information on social media: facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/rethinking-information -diversity -in-networks / 10150503499618859
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday December 17th, 2014
We couldn't find any other Facebook public responses to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Ferguson protests.
Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, posted an email to Google employees on June 3 entitled "Standing with the Black Community" in which he made the following "initial" commitments:
We will provide $ 12 million to organizations working to address racial inequalities. Our first grants of $ 1 million each go to our longstanding partners at the Center for Policing Equity and the Equal Justice Initiative. We offer technical support through our Google.org Fellows program. This builds on the $ 32 million we've donated to racial justice over the past five years. We also offer $ 25 million ad grants to help organizations combat racial injustice provide critical information.
As a result of last week's internal fundraising campaign, I’m happy to announce that you’ve all contributed an additional $ 2.5 million in donations that we’re bringing together. This is the largest Googler fundraising campaign in our company's history, with both the largest amount of employees and the broadest participation.
"We will work closely with our black community to develop initiatives and product ideas that support long-term solutions – and we will keep you updated," added Pichai. "As part of this effort, we welcome your ideas on how to use our products and technologies to improve access and opportunities."
Pichai also tweeted Google's solidarity with the Black Community.
Today we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black Community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others who have no voice on the U.S. Google and YouTube homepages. You are not alone for those who feel sadness, anger, sadness and fear. pic.twitter.com/JbPCG3wfQW
– Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai), May 31, 2020
We couldn't find any public answers from Google regarding the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Ferguson protests.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's May 28 statement to employees about the Minneapolis protests was posted on LinkedIn. As part of this, Nadella discussed Microsoft's criminal justice reform initiative, which officially launched in 2019.
"This initiative invests in partnerships and programs to drive reform, with a focus on policing," said Merisa Heu-Weller, director of the initiative, in a blog post on March 3. "Although we recognize that there are differences across the system, we believe that by focusing on policing and building positive relationships between the police and communities, we can help keep people out of the system and reduce the differences within the system. "
Heu-Weller also said that "Teams across Microsoft have been working with organizations in the United States since 2014 to work on improvements in criminal justice."
Nadella tweeted his support for the black African American community on June 1st. He also retweeted many testimonials from black Microsoft employees who were shared on Microsoft's official Twitter account.
There is no place for hatred and racism in our society. Empathy and shared understanding are a start, but we have to do more. I stand by the black and African American community and we are determined to build on this work in our company and in our communities. https://t.co/WaEuhRqBho
– Satya Nadella (@satyanadella), June 1, 2020
We couldn't find any public responses from Microsoft regarding the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Ferguson protests.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, called for a "reform of police policy now" in a June 1 tweet.
Dorsey also tweeted # startsmall grants to help black and brown communities, support ex-offenders, and more. Dorsey began # startsmall grants in April after transferring $ 1 billion of its Square equity to an LLC to fund COVID-19 aid. All grants awarded so far are tracked here.
Dorsey's Twitter thread with his latest grants starts here:
Twitter's @TwitterTogether account has posted a Twitter thread on how people can practice allies.
Racism does not cling to social distance.
Amid the growing fear and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, this week has once again drawn attention to something perhaps more ubiquitous: the longstanding racism and injustices that black and brown people face every day. pic.twitter.com/8zKPlDnacY
– Twitter Together (@TwitterTogether) May 29, 2020
Dorsey went to Ferguson, Missouri shortly after Michael Brown's death to take part in protests, and tweeted extensively there. At that time, he was the CEO of Twitter and not its CEO.
We couldn't find any other Twitter public responses to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown or the Ferguson protests.
These companies may not have appeared in 2014, but given the very low bar, the fact that they did it in 2020 is an encouraging sign of progress. A declaration of solidarity and some donations should only be the beginning. There is recognition of racism and then the ongoing work of being anti-racist.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter – these companies pride themselves on being some of the most powerful institutions in the world and often promote that they make the world a better place. If they commit to their promise to "advance" and "fight systemic racism and injustice", these efforts could really help the black community – or at least more than just promises and platitudes in a press release.