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Trade group for Facebook, Google, others to hire diversity head

The Internet Association says it's stepping up efforts on inclusion, after a letter from lawmakers.

Erin Carson Former Senior Writer
Erin Carson covered internet culture, online dating and the weird ways tech and science are changing your life.
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Erin Carson
2 min read
The Capitol building in Washington

Lawmakers want tech companies to take more action in regard to combating racism, sexism and bigotry online.

Mike Kline/Getty Images

The tech industry says it's making a move to improve diversity, this time at the behest of Washington.

In a letter addressed to Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Emanuel Cleaver, the Internet Association trade group, which represents Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other major tech companies, said it's creating a new role at the IA: director of diversity and inclusion policy.

"It is important that the diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints among internet users is well represented in the industry generally and in our policy engagement specifically," reads the letter.

The Internet Association declined to comment beyond the letter.

The IA's note to the Democratic representatives, Watson Coleman from New Jersey and Cleaver from Missouri, comes in response to a letter sent by them in November. That letter (PDF) asked for a review of several concerns related to the spread of racism, bigotry and sexism online, as well as to privacy and the growth of artificial intelligence.

"We call on you to hold your members responsible for the spread of racial and gender bias where they can and urge you to adopt best practices and policies to hold these members accountable with consequences," said the letter from Watson Coleman and Cleaver.

And if that doesn't happen, said the letter, Congress will push for increased regulations on internet companies.

Uber, also a part of the Internet Association, said on Tuesday that it's hired its first-ever chief diversity and inclusion officer, after an investigation led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder into the company's workplace culture. The industry has taken an increasing amount of flack for its low numbers of women and minorities.

According to a job posting on the IA's website, the group's new director of diversity and inclusion will be responsible for things like working with government officials on advocacy.

"The Internet Association has responded in a very serious and proactive manner to our concerns that there was no one guarding the guardians when it comes to the internet and its potentially negative effects on racial and gender bias," Cleaver said in a statement.

Watson Coleman called the new position a first step in the right direction, saying in a statement, "It is imperative that industry leadership is held accountable for mitigating the social and ethical risks that perpetuate the spread of racial, gender and religious bias."

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