Essays on Technology and Culture

It’s Not That Tech Doesn’t Care, It’s That Tech Doesn’t Care About What We Care About

Randi Harper, founder of the Online Abuse Prevention Initiative, posted a few things Twitter could do to prevent abuse. In the same threat, she also justifiably rips on Jason Calacanis and Vivek Wadhwa for their weak-sauce solutions to a very real problem that rarely affects them. And when it does, it certainly doesn’t get to the level that many—mostly women and people of color—face every time they log in.

In some deference to Calacanis and Wadhwa, as successful VCs, they have experience and skills that help companies succeed, grow, and overcome many of the hurdles they will face. They’re also avid Twitter users, so they have a vested interest in keeping the platform alive. (They might also be investors, too. I couldn’t confirm in a quick Google search.) They don’t get human psychology. They don’t get how systems can be twisted for their own ends—only “disrupted” by something more efficient.

Jason and Vivek care about Twitter, but they care about the wrong thing. The values of the technology industry as we start 2016 are still about rapid growth and high returns, damn the cost. It’s why we have nearly 150 startups valued at or over $1 billion. When your priority is getting a big return for your investors—and a nice little bonus for yourself—anything that doesn’t directly contribute to that is not a concern.

That includes diversity. That includes tools to prevent abuse. That includes, above all, empathy.

That needs to change.

As tech eats more and more of the world, the companies doing the eating will eventually have to confront these problems. We’re already either seeing it happen, or seeing them stick their heads in the sand. For the companies that address the problems head-on, with real inventive solutions and ideas, I predict real success. For the companies that keep their eye on the valuation, and not the quality? I predict nothing but gloom. It’s not too late for Twitter to pivot in this, but first they—and their investors and advisors—have to care.