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Here's how tech is responding to Charlottesville

The tech industry is speaking out about the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, and booting hate groups from their services.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
Expertise Erin has been a tech reporter for almost 10 years. Her reporting has taken her from the Johnson Space Center to San Diego Comic-Con's famous Hall H. Credentials
  • She has a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
Erin Carson
13 min read
Photos from a KKK rally in Charlottesville, VA

The tech industry has plenty to say about the violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The Washington Post

The tech community isn't keeping quiet about last week's violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

After all, technology is ubiquitous. The products and services you and I use every day are  the same ones hate groups use to organize and spread their messages. Prominent tech leaders are involved in government panels. The president issues statements from his mobile phone.

Here's a roundup of corporate responses to the events that left one woman dead and more than 30 injured, as well as President Donald Trump's controversial response. Broadly, they constitute a call to end online content that celebrates racism, bigotry and hatred.


In the days since Charlottesville, several companies have bounced The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as the top hate site in the US, from their services.

GoDaddy, which originally provided domain services to the site, over the weekend gave The Daily Stormer 24 hours to move elsewhere. The Daily Stormer then tried to register with Google Domains, a similar service, but the search giant quickly canceled the registration.


The internet security provider also bailed on The Daily Stormer and explained why in a lengthy blog post. Here's an excerpt:

Earlier today, Cloudflare terminated the account of the Daily Stormer. We've stopped proxying their traffic and stopped answering DNS requests for their sites. We've taken measures to ensure that they cannot sign up for Cloudflare's services ever again.

Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.

Our team has been thorough and have had thoughtful discussions for years about what the right policy was on censoring. Like a lot of people, we've felt angry at these hateful people for a long time but we have followed the law and remained content neutral as a network. We could not remain neutral after these claims of secret support by Cloudflare.


Twitter accounts associated with The Daily Stormer have also been suspended.

While the company said it wouldn't comment on individual accounts, the platform's rules "prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and [it] will take action on accounts violating those policies."


The voice and text chat platform for gamers also took action against accounts linked to what happened in Charlottesville.


Reddit has banned several far-right and neo-Nazi subreddits since Charlottesville, including one called Physical Removal.

"We are very clear in our site terms of service that posting content that incites violence will get users banned from Reddit. We have banned /r/Physical_Removal due to violations of the terms of our content policy," a Reddit spokesperson said.


Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote a post on the social network responding to Charlottesville and underlining the site's policy to take down any post that "promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism."

We aren't born hating each other. We aren't born with such extreme views. We may not be able to solve every problem, but we all have a responsibility to do what we can. I believe we can do something about the parts of our culture that teach a person to hate someone else.

It's important that Facebook is a place where people with different views can share their ideas. Debate is part of a healthy society. But when someone tries to silence others or attacks them based on who they are or what they believe, that hurts us all and is unacceptable.

There is no place for hate in our community. That's why we've always taken down any post that promotes or celebrates hate crimes or acts of terrorism -- including what happened in Charlottesville. With the potential for more rallies, we're watching the situation closely and will take down threats of physical harm. We won't always be perfect, but you have my commitment that we'll keep working to make Facebook a place where everyone can feel safe.

The last few days have been hard to process. I know a lot of us have been asking where this hate comes from. As a Jew, it's something I've wondered much of my life. It's a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong -- as if this is somehow not obvious. My thoughts are with the victims of hate around the world, and everyone who has the courage to stand up to it every day.

There may always be some evil in the world, and maybe we can't do anything about that. But there's too much polarization in our culture, and we can do something about that. There's not enough balance, nuance, and depth in our public discourse, and I believe we can do something about that. We need to bring people closer together, and I know we can make progress at that.


After the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out how various hate groups use the service, PayPal said this:

It is with heavy hearts that we reflect upon the recent events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. Lives lost due to hatred and intolerance are a tragedy for every person in our nation. The PayPal community was appalled by the events that transpired - and our hearts go out to the people of Charlottesville and all who have been touched by this unacceptable hatred and violence.

The events in Charlottesville are yet another disturbing example of the many forms that racism and hatred manifest. Prejudice, however, does not always march in the street. Intolerance can take on a range of on-line and off-line forms, across a wide array of content and language. It is with this backdrop that PayPal strives to navigate the balance between freedom of expression and open dialogue -- and the limiting and closing of sites that accept payments or raise funds to promote hate, violence and intolerance.

PayPal has a longstanding, well-defined and consistently enforced Acceptable Use Policy that governs our approach to this issue. Regardless of the individual or organization in question, we work to ensure that our services are not used to accept payments or donations for activities that promote hate, violence or racial intolerance. This includes organizations that advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups. If we become aware of a website or organization using our services that may violate our policies, our highly trained team of experts addresses each case individually and carefully evaluates the website itself, any associated organizations, and their adherence to our policy. Ultimately, this team of professionals makes a recommendation that leads to the final determination on our ability to maintain our relationship with the website's owner.

There are times when people may find an account that is using PayPal's services to be offensive, but because the website and organization does not violate our Acceptable Use Policy, we will continue to process payments for the account as we respect and seek to uphold the values of freedom of expression and open dialogue. We recognize and work to navigate the fine lines that exist in these situations, and our teams do their best to distinguish between opinion-based, offensive websites and those that go beyond opinion and discourse and violate our policies. However, PayPal will – as we consistently have in the past – limit or end customer relationships and prohibit the use of our services by those that meet the thresholds of violating our policy.

In addition to our own proactive monitoring, screening and scrutiny, PayPal's team of professionals will evaluate all sites brought to our attention by our customers. Listening to customer and community feedback makes PayPal a better company and is essential to our ability to fulfill our mission.  Anyone who has concerns about questionable or offensive content can and should alert us by emailing AUPviolations@paypal.com. We welcome your feedback and appreciate the role of our customers in helping to keep our community a safe and inclusive place for all.

Maintaining the necessary balance between protecting the principles of tolerance, diversity and respect for people of all backgrounds with upholding legitimate free expression and open dialogue can be difficult, but we do our very best to achieve it.  We are dedicated to providing financial services to people with a diversity of views and from all walks of life. While the challenges and the landscape are continually changing, we will continue to work hard to limit the efforts of those who try to use our services inappropriately. PayPal will always remain vigilant and committed to ensuring that our platforms are not used to perpetuate hate and violence or racial intolerance.

Franz Paasche, SVP Corporate Affairs & Communications, PayPal


Squarespace, a service that allows people to create websites, is booting racist websites.

"In light of recent events, we have made the decision to remove a group of sites from our platform," a spokesman said.


Music streaming service Spotify is cracking down on bands the Southern Poverty Law Center labeled as "white power" bands. In a statement, a Spotify spokesperson said "illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us."

"Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention. We are glad to have been alerted to this content-- and have already removed many of the bands identified today, whilst urgently reviewing the remainder."


Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to employees not only denouncing what happened the Charlottesville, but taking issue with Trump's comments that counter protesters shared blame with neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members who rallied over the weekend.


Like so many of you, equality is at the core of my beliefs and values. The events of the past several days have been deeply troubling for me, and I've heard from many people at Apple who are saddened, outraged or confused.

What occurred in Charlottesville has no place in our country. Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world.

We must not witness or permit such hate and bigotry in our country, and we must be unequivocal about it. This is not about the left or the right, conservative or liberal. It is about human decency and morality. I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans.

Regardless of your political views, we must all stand together on this one point — that we are all equal. As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect.

I believe Apple has led by example, and we're going to keep doing that. We have always welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world and showed them that Apple is inclusive of everyone. We empower people to share their views and express themselves through our products.

In the wake of the tragic and repulsive events in Charlottesville, we are stepping up to help organizations who work to rid our country of hate. Apple will be making contributions of $1 million each to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. We will also match two-for-one our employees' donations to these and several other human rights groups, between now and September 30.

In the coming days, iTunes will offer users an easy way to join us in directly supporting the work of the SPLC.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." So, we will continue to speak up. These have been dark days, but I remain as optimistic as ever that the future is bright. Apple can and will play an important role in bringing about positive change.



Apple Pay, the company's digital wallet service, also disabled support for websites selling items like Nazi or white pride sweaters and T-shirts.


Intel CEO Brian Krzanich was one of the first executives to leave Trump's advisory councils. When Krzanich left the manufacturing council, he put out this statement:

Earlier today, I tendered my resignation from the American Manufacturing Council. I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing. Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base.

I have already made clear my abhorrence at the recent hate-spawned violence in Charlottesville, and earlier today I called on all leaders to condemn the white supremacists and their ilk who marched and committed violence. I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them. We should honor – not attack – those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values. I hope this will change, and I remain willing to serve when it does.

I am not a politician. I am an engineer who has spent most of his career working in factories that manufacture the world's most advanced devices. Yet, it is clear even to me that nearly every issue is now politicized to the point where significant progress is impossible. Promoting American manufacturing should not be a political issue.

My request—my plea—to everyone involved in our political system is this: set scoring political points aside and focus on what is best for the nation as a whole. The current environment must change, or else our nation will become a shadow of what it once was and what it still can and should be.


IBM CEO Ginni Rometty sent this memo to IBMers regarding the decision to disband the president's strategy and policy forum.


By now, you've seen the news that we have disbanded the President's Strategy and Policy Forum. In the past week , we have seen and heard of public events and statements that run counter to our values as a country and a company. IBM has long said, and more importantly, demonstrated its commitment to a workplace and a society that is open, inclusive and provides opportunity to all. IBM's commitment to these values remains robust, active and unwavering.

The despicable conduct of hate groups in Charlottesville last weekend, and the violence and death that resulted from it, shows yet again that our nation needs to focus on unity, inclusion, and tolerance. For more than a century and in more than 170 countries, IBM has been committed to these values.

Engagement is part of our history, too. We have worked with every U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson. We are determinedly non-partisan – we maintain no political action committee. And we have always believed that dialogue is critical to progress; that is why I joined the President's Forum earlier this year.

But this group can no longer serve the purpose for which it was formed. Earlier today I spoke with other members of the Forum and we agreed to disband the group. IBM will continue to work with all parts of the government for policies that support job growth, vocational education and global trade, as well as fair and informed policies on immigration and taxation.



Another resignation came from GE Chairman Jeff Immelt who, after initially saying he would stay on the manufacturing committee in a statement from GE, ultimately left it Wednesday morning.

The President's statements yesterday were deeply troubling.  There would be no GE without people of all races, religions, genders, and sexual orientations. GE has no tolerance for hate, bigotry, racism, and the white supremacist extremism that the country witnessed in Charlottesville last weekend.

I joined the President's Committee on Manufacturing because engagement with government on economic policy is very important for GE, our employees, and partners.  As a company that exports over $20 billion of American made goods to the world, I believe we are best served when we constructively engage with leaders in the United States and around the world.  The Committee I joined had the intention to foster policies that promote American manufacturing and growth.  However, given the ongoing tone of the discussion, I no longer feel that this Council can accomplish these goals.  Therefore, I notified members of the council this morning that I could no longer serve on the President's Committee on American Manufacturing.


The dating site banned white supremacist Christopher Cantwell on Thursday and will ban others involved with hate groups.


Ride-hailing service Uber said in a statement that it was "horrified" by the events in Charlottesville, adding "there is simply no place for this type of bigotry, discrimination, and hate."

Uber said it would be vigilant in upholding its community guidelines, which prohibit discrimination of any kind, and would ban violators from using the app. 


Ride-hailing company Lyft has also condemned the rally "centered on hate." Lyft's co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green sent an email to staff on Monday saying, "We are sickened by these events. We envision a world where everyone can belong, where individuals are safe and supported no matter who they are." 

The company then held an employee meeting on Tuesday to discuss specific actions it could take to combat intolerance. From that meeting, Lyft announced Friday that it's partnering with the Southern Poverty Law Center, holding company-wide unconscious bias trainings and carrying out additional work to stand with underrepresented communities and build inclusive workplaces. It also sent an email to drivers saying it will support them by monitoring protests for activity from hate groups and provide them safety alerts. 

"We're committed to continue listening, learning, and acting to protect the safety and inclusivity of our community," Lyft wrote in the email. 

First published August 17, 3:41 p.m. PT.
Update, Aug. 21 at 1:38 p.m.: Adds information about Lyft's response to Charlottesville.

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