Corporate Leaders Need to Step Up and Protect Black Votes

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and counter protesters demonstrate outside of the White House ahead of Saturday’s Million MAGA March on November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Supporters clashed with protesters organized by Shutdown DC at Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump and counter protesters demonstrate outside of the White House ahead of Saturday’s Million MAGA March on November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Supporters clashed with protesters organized by Shutdown DC at Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Photo: Sarah Silbiger (Getty Images)

For the last six months or so, companies such as Nike, Amazon, Uber and Facebook have bombarded us with messages to “get out the vote.” But now that these votes are being threatened, these same companies have retreated into the shadows, unwilling to defend the very people they called on to save our democracy. It’s now time corporations actually help protect every vote after a surplus of pleas telling us every vote counts.

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Despite voter and ballot suppression, not only did Black voters turn out in record numbers, but the motivation and mobilization created by the movement for racial justice were instrumental in the final results. Now, though, the fight to defend our votes still hangs in the balance and the future of our democracy cannot rest on Black people alone.

Corporations can’t credibly say Black lives matter if they won’t protect Black votes. The countless companies that have publicly encouraged people to vote and made “Black Lives Matter” statements need to join us in demanding that we move forward with the definitive election outcome. To be silent now is to be complicit in the violence and structural racism that have been enforced by white supremacist forces at the polls for decades.

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After a year of noise from corporations pledging their support to Black Lives Matter and boycotting ads on Facebook to demand safeguards from misinformation on the platform, corporate leaders are staying silent when we need them the most—corporations must use their platforms, resources, and their influence to stand with Black people and our allies demanding candidates and media pundits respect the facts. That means speaking out against bad actors and their enablers who attempt to erase Black votes.

We’ve already seen how Facebook and Twitter continue to lag on labeling false claims of victory from candidates and their supporters, allowing dangerously dishonest posts to spread widely without any checks. YouTube has also failed to stem the proliferation of election misinformation, flat out refusing to take down some troubling videos centered on election misinformation. Social media giants must take responsibility for their role in enabling politicians and their surrogates to deploy voter suppression tactics and spread election misinformation on their platforms. Given the high velocity at which social posts spread, every second of inaction creates a harmful ripple effect on our democracy.

Recent reports reinforce that Facebook’s internal mechanisms for enforcing rules around voter suppression and election misinformation are fundamentally flawed and far too weak. Conservative groups have shown a blatant disregard for Facebook’s election-related policies as they spread lies and misinformation without consequence. Facebook has also failed to stop dangerous, far-right groups like QAnon from using the platform to plan rallies and convoys across the country intended to disrupt the election and prevent voters from accessing polling sites.

Now, “stop the steal” groups are using Facebook to spread disturbing misinformation and false accusations of voter fraud in an effort to erase Black votes and halt vote counts in critical battleground states with high populations of Black voters. Some of these groups are tied to Republican operatives, and they are growing at alarming rates, organizing and mobilizing members to take bogus voter fraud allegations and election misinformation from online group pages to the streets. Facebook has taken action in some instances, but they’ve pulled groups down far too late, only after pressure from advocacy groups like Color Of Change. One group had grown to 365,000 members and already broadcast calls for violence before the company took it down.

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These policy enforcement failures continue to embolden bad actors who want to erase Black votes and cast doubt on the integrity of votes in Black communities. The stakes are higher than ever, and Facebook has proven it’s incapable of enforcing its own policies. That’s why Color Of Change is demanding Facebook immediately suspend the accounts of candidates and campaigns that violate policies designed to protect the integrity of the election, pause group recommendations across the board until the election results are certified, and demote the top 100 misinformation super-spreader groups on the platform — among other calls to action.

Surveys show Americans want CEOs to play a role in protecting our democracy. They must step up. If corporate leaders—who make millions of dollars a year off of Black purchasing power—can’t defend Black votes, we cannot trust them to defend Black lives. The thousands of companies that issued statements of Black Lives Matter earlier this summer must now join us in condemning candidates who spread lies and misinformation in an attempt to undermine the election. Companies like Amazon, Nike, JPMorgan Chase and McDonald’s, and major sport leagues like the NBA and NFL that have profited off the backs of Black labor and consumers must also act.

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Amazon has already demonstrated glaring hypocrisy in this regard. The company, which has a large percentage of Black workers, has encouraged employees to reflect on systemic racism, but has refused to give employees time off to vote and continues to put Black workers at risk of harm. Financial services companies have a role to play as well. For too long, they’ve continued to provide a platform for hate groups to raise funds and process payments, which has led both directly and indirectly to violence against Black people.

At the end of the day, the will of the people will prevail, but we have to hold corporate enablers accountable—any attempt to cheat this election will not be tolerated. Corporations that think Black votes don’t matter, clearly don’t believe that Black lives matter. We won the fight to be heard, but we still have to keep fighting to protect what we won from being stolen. Corporate giants must use their platforms to condemn anyone who refuses to honor and respect the numbers or erase Black votes. If they can’t defend our victory at the polls, we cannot trust them to fight for real change or dismantle corporate practices that harm Black communities.

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