Ellen Pao, Tracy Chou say they worry about tech's negative impact, lack of values
Companies need to be more concerned about their effect on people, the diversity advocates say.
Abrar Al-HeetiVideo producer / CNET
Abrar Al-Heeti is a video host and producer for CNET, with an interest in internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. Before joining the video team, she was a writer for CNET's culture team. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
ExpertiseAbrar has spent her career at CNET breaking down the latest trends on TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, while also reporting on diversity and inclusion initiatives in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.Credentials
Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
needs to be more concerned about its impact on society,
and Tracy Chou told the audience at a tech conference Friday.
"There's this failure of all these companies to take into account the consequences of their products, of their actions, of their lack of values," Pao said at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. She said it appears that people who run companies are only focused on generating wealth, rather than what's happening to the people around them.
Chou echoed those concerns.
"For a long time, [tech] was just a small part of society," she said. "And now tech is very dominant and needs to be much more accountable to what it's doing."
"It's a question of values and I think it's a question of ethics to create these exceptions because you want to drive this growth ... without thinking about the long-term direction of where your platform is going," she said.
A Twitter representative declined to comment, but pointed to a blog post from last year that says "Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial tweets would hide important information people should be able to see and debate."
Litigation could be the wake-up call some companies need to be more ethical, Pao said. Chou added that recruiting is also critical to change. If enough employees or candidates take a stance and say they won't work for a company that does unethical things, companies will be more likely to act and respond.
In 2013, Chou, who was then a software engineer at Pinterest, wrote a Medium post asking for data on how many women held technical roles in the industry. That move helped catalyze the practice of tech companies releasing diversity reports. She's now the CEO of Block Party, which is working to prevent online abuse and harassment.
Pao said that in the past few years people in the industry have come to realize that 45-minute unconscious bias training isn't as effective as having conversations and sharing stories about people's experiences.
"This idea that you can change somebody's values easily through short interactions, that's really hard," Pao said. "Everybody's realized that actually does not work at all. You need these ongoing trainings, you need ongoing interaction and you need to measure and hold people accountable."
Originally published Oct. 4 at 12:13 p.m. PT. Update, 3:19 p.m. PT: Adds Twitter's response.