Silicon Valley workers' political attacks show hypocrisy
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Silicon Valley prides itself on being open-minded and diverse. But this year’s election showed us that when it comes to politics, the Valley expects rigid conformity.

In 2016, the tech world largely united behind Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE. Silicon Valley employees gave 60 times more cash to Clinton than to Trump. 100 tech leaders signed a letter calling Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE a “disaster” for innovation. Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz donated a stunning $35 million to groups supporting Clinton’s campaign.

The few in Silicon Valley who had the audacity to support the other major party candidate for president were treated like blasphemers. When billionaire investor Peter Thiel gave $1.25 million to support Donald Trump’s campaign, the backlash was swift.

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Catherine Bracy, former Director of Community Organizing for Code for America, was one of many tech figures who demanded Facebook oust Thiel from its board of directors. Bracy even tweeted, “Would like to see no women or people of color -- heck, maybe white men too -- accept jobs at Facebook until Thiel is gone.”

Ellen Pao, head of the pro-diversity group Project Include, announced she was severing ties with start-up incubator Y Combinator because Thiel is a part-time adviser there.

Thiel wasn’t the only tech titan who faced repercussions for supporting Trump. In September, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey admitted that he had donated $10,000 to Nimble America, a group spreading Internet memes critical of Hillary Clinton.

This outraged several game developers for the Oculus Rift, who then threatened to cease their support for the platform unless Luckey stepped down. Luckey quickly apologized for the impact of his donation, and was conspicuously absent from his company’s keynote event in October.

When leading figures in tech are treated this way for supporting Donald Trump, no one in the industry can feel entirely comfortable expressing a conservative point of view. It is difficult to have a frank and constructive discussion about politics when supporting the “wrong” candidate could mean losing your job.

There were a variety of reasons Silicon Valley turned against Trump. He called for an end to the H1-B visa program, through which companies like Google recruit highly skilled foreign workers.

He made vague comments about shutting down parts of the Internet. However, it was his off-color remarks about women and immigrants that riled his fiercest critics, diversity advocates like Bracy and Pao.

In an irony that was surely lost on them, these champions of tolerance and inclusivity responded by demonizing Trump supporters and boycotting their businesses.

These actions undermine the very idea of diversity and inclusion. In the words of Mark Zuckerberg, “We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate.”

The ideological intolerance of the tech industry concerns all of us, because much of today’s political dialogue is held on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

The corporations that run these sites have the power to elevate the views they like and bury the ones they don’t, and so it is vital that they understand the value of free and open discussion. Otherwise, these sites risk becoming echo chambers of politically correct views where huge swaths of the population do not feel welcome.

We have already seen the warning signs. Earlier this year, Facebook admitted that some of its employees may have shown bias against conservatives in the way they curated the news in the trending topics section of the site.

More recently, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman admitted to secretly editing comments that were critical of him on a pro-Trump “subreddit.” These incidents underscore the need for tech companies to promote a culture of tolerance for differing ideologies.

For those in Silicon Valley and beyond, this election has taught us an important lesson -- ostracizing those who disagree with you does not foster a culture of diversity and inclusion. Instead, it creates an environment of polarization, silence, and fear.

 

Maxwell Rohlfs is a UCLA graduate. He now writes about politics as an editorial associate in Arlington, VA.


 

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