Silicon Selma: Why Innovation Inequality Matters Today

In 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. joined the community of Selma, AL to lead the Selma-to-Montgomery March that would change voting rights history forever. His Nobel Lecture the year before suggests why King, if alive today, might address innovation inequality as the civil rights issue of our era.

     “In spite of spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing.

     There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance.

     The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.” 

                     – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Lecture, 1964

There is perhaps no greater example of this wealth and moral gap than Silicon Valley, where at the same time it radiates as a global symbol of technological advancement and wealth creation, it is the center of moral criticisms and a deficit of values.

Within Silicon Valley tech companies, unfair treatment is the single largest driver of employee turnover. It seems every week, another tech giant employee quits, alleging harassment or dissatisfaction surrounding the lack of diversity. Globally, Silicon Valley is in the news for the unintended consequences on topics ranging from democracy to mental health. Locally, tech companies have created wealth – half of the world’s billionaires live in Silicon Valley – yet, entire communities struggle with homelessness, hunger, and poor education.

As history watches the world import the Silicon Valley model of innovation to places like Silicon Alley (New York, NY), Silicon Hills (Austin, TX), Silicon Cape (South Africa), Silicon Oasis (Dubai), and Silicon Wadi (Israel), just to name a few, our future generations yearn for a community of unified people to address the justice and equality of innovation.

In 1965, Dr. King addressed voting rights, the civil rights issue of his time, by joining with the community of Selma to point the world’s attention toward the need to include everyone in our democracy.

Today, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson believes the community of East Palo Alto (EPA) is our generation’s Selma – a small, yet mighty, culturally-rich community in the heart of Silicon Valley. In it lies the talent, potential, and values that can capture the world’s attention toward the need to include everyone in innovation.

This opportunity has inspired StreetCode Academy, an EPA-based organization providing free innovation training to communities of color, to explore the links between our country’s civil rights struggle and our current need to solve innovation inequality.

In the words of Dr. King’s Nobel speech, “Here and there an individual or group dares to love, and rises to the majestic heights of moral maturity. So in a real sense this is a great time to be alive.”

Dr. Gladys West, Who Helped Develop The GPS, Inducted Into Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame

A “hidden figure” in the development of GPS technology has officially been honored for her work. Mathematician Dr. Gladys West was recognized for doing the computing responsible for creating the Geographical Positioning System, more commonly referred to as the GPS.

On December 6, the 87-year-old woman was inducted into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame by the United States Air Force during a ceremony at the Pentagon.

The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority member, born in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, earned a full scholarship to Virginia State University after graduating high school at the top of her class. Gwen James, her sorority sister, told The Associated Press she discovered her longtime friend’s achievements when she was compiling a bio for senior members of the group.

“GPS has changed the lives of everyone forever,” James said. “There is not a segment of this global society — military, auto industry, cell phone industry, social media, parents, NASA, etc. — that does not utilize the Global Positioning System.”

Dr. West spent 42 years working on the naval base at Dahlgren, Virginia. During this time, she was one of the few women hired by the military to do advanced technological work. During the early 1960s, she was commissioned by the U.S. Naval Weapons Laboratory to support research around Pluto’s motion. From the mid-1970s to the 1980s, her computing work on a geodetic Earth model led to what became the first GPS orbit.

“This involved planning and executing several highly complex computer algorithms which have to analyze an enormous amount of data,” Ralph Neiman, her supervisor who recommended her for commendation in 1979, said. “You have used your knowledge of computer applications to accomplish this in an efficient and timely manner.”

The official Air Force Space Command shared a tweet about the recent ceremony that took place.

SpaceX’s first GPS III satellite will launch on Tuesday with the help of the U.S. Air Force.

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Check these out:

Hidden No More: Gladys West Finally Gets The Credit She Deserves For Pivotal Work On GPS

‘Hidden Figure’ Katherine Johnson’s Great-Granddaughter Receives Perfect Score On Math SOL Test

Higher Education Becomes Vital For the Next Generation Of Leaders

Nintendo Has The Perfect Items For Your Blerd Holiday Shopping Guide

‘Tis the season! There’s no better time to give than the holidays — and Nintendo has the perfect presents to purchase for any member of your family this season. Whether it’s for your niece, nephew, godchildren or younger sibling, Nintendo has you covered.

The New Nintendo 2DS™ XL and Nintendo 2DS systems each offer users the opportunity to play some of Nintendo’s most beloved games that are perfect for anyone, no matter whether they’re a longtime gamer or playing for the first time.

If you’re looking to buy a present specifically for a gamer or a blerd in the family, learn more about these cool products below!

Nintendo 2DS with New Super Mario Bros. 2 pre-installed (Scarlet Red)

Photo: Nintendo

Nintendo 2DS with New Super Mario Bros. 2 pre-installed (Electric Blue)

Photo: Nintendo

Nintendo 2DS is a sturdy, small, durable handheld device people of all ages can play. It’s especially a perfect fit for younger gamers! The system comes at a suggested retail price of $79.99 with a stylus, AC adapter, 4GB SDHC memory card and six AR cards as well. The New Super Mario Bros.™ 2 game is also pre-installed!

New Nintendo 2DS XL with Mario Kart 7 pre-installed (Turquoise/Black)

Photo: Nintendo

The New Nintendo 2DS XL system is a stylish, lightweight handheld device with an 82 percent bigger screen and faster processor than the Nintendo 2DS system. The most recent entry in the Nintendo handheld family of systems is also available in silver and purple at a suggested retail price of $149.99. The device comes with a stylus, AC adapter, 4GB SDHC memory card and six AR cards. To top it off, the Mario Kart ™ 7 game is pre-installed as well!

The Nintendo 3DS family of systems has a library of more than 1,000 games, so this is definitely a dream come true for all the blerds in the family! Users can play games from the Nintendo Selects collection, which includes classic Nintendo titles at a suggested retail price of just $19.99 each – such as Super Mario 3D Land™, The Legend of Zelda™: A Link Between Worlds and The Legend of Zelda™: Ocarina of Time™ 3D.

So if you’re still on the search to buy a great gift, look no further! These Nintendo bundles just may be the perfect gift to give this holiday season – click here to purchase!

Nintendo 2DS and New Nintendo 2DS XL systems play Nintendo 3DS in 2D only.

Games Shown:


How Tech Beach Is Helping To Unlock The Untapped Potential In The Caribbean

There's something magical and bizarre happening in the development of the African Diaspora. I don't think a lot of people see, nor understand, that the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa are becoming the epicenters of a new revolution in technology that’s quickly and dramatically changing the status quo of inequality and under-representation. My wife and I had the pleasure and honor to attend and participate in Tech Beach Retreat 2018 in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Tech Beach was founded by Kyle Maloney and Kirk-Anthony Hamilton, two entrepreneurs with a vision to connect and empower Caribbean entrepreneurs, engineers and executives across a range of backgrounds to explore and create solutions to improve country and citizen. The caliber of the attendees and participants has attracted the attention of major tech companies like Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Instagram and a number of VCs and financial service firms and government conglomerates.

Kirk-Anthony comments, “Tech Beach is modeled on a vision of the world we'd like to see, extremely diverse across race, geography and skill set and very open to collaboration. We believe the Caribbean is misunderstood and filled with untapped potential and we've invited the world to join us in creating a new ecosystem for business and innovation to unlock this stored potential in partnership with our people”

Ty Heath from LinkedIn, panelist on “The Changing Face of Digital Marketing” at Tech Beach 2018

These aren't little e-commerce sites or side businesses we are talking about. Caribbeans and young people all across the diaspora, today, are closing global multi-million dollar deals despite a continued cycle of limited access to traditional and alternative investments platform. Moreover, we are closing huge voids that dramatically improve the quality of lives of our countrymen and women. It's truly an inspiring and riveting experience to witness and now be a part of.

I'll have to admit, when I heard Kyle Maloney, co-founder of Tech Beach mention that 60 percent of 2017 retreat attendees are now collaborating or doing business with each other, I thought he was either grossly exaggerating or maybe he had an Appleton rum or two before hitting the stage. However, within 20 minutes of the first networking opportunity, not only was I introduced to the largest group of high caliber and shakers in the Caribbean, but the authentic passion and desire to want to better the diaspora led straight to conversations about entrepreneurial overlap, collaboration and how we, in the United States, need to actively seek our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean, Latin America and in the roots of Africa herself. We became family.


Shaina Silva, Director of Corporate Innovation, RocketSpace

In my 10 years traveling throughout the U.S. to different conferences, I hardly learn anything new — and most presenters are white men and women. Tech Beach, is a stark difference, and is by far my favorite conference. The first day didn’t conclude until we felt like regional attendees, and conference hosts made us feel like family, graciously inviting us to their community and homes.

If you have a disruptive idea or business and are looking for an entrepreneurial catalyst, I highly recommend you to visit the Tech Beach website and see what others have to say about their experience. There’s something powerful happening in the Caribbean, and throughout the African diaspora. Kyle comments, “People who participate in Tech Beach quickly realize they're in a results-driven environment. We're not designed simply to tick a box or two but to build a whole new realm of tech and innovation in a part of the world that is often marginalized.”

There is a very lucid, mystical reason, our conferences like Afrotech, Ghana Tech Summit, etc. in the Caribbean and throughout the African Diaspora are the ones most sought after by people like last year's keynote speaker at Tech Beach, Jack Dorsey, founder and CEO of Twitter, and this year’s distinguished guest, Jeff Pulver, founder of Vonage and vice chairman of Alchemist. Jeff comments, “There was magic in the air. Words, voices and more. Everyone was approachable. Ideas shared. Questions asked and answered. Tech Beach is a place where people can attend and be inspired and come back to and share their stories and encourage others to be person they know they are. To find the inner strength to follow and be their dreams and follow their own path.”

These tech luminaries clearly have proven on multiple occasions the gift of foresight; there is magic and an unseen trend emerging. Follow the #TechBeach hashtag and be sure to mark your calendars for November 28–30, 2019!

Tech Beach Website

Tech Beach Twitter

Tech Beach Instagram

How The ‘Internet Of Things’ Could Bring About An Economic Revolution

For many of us, the internet plays a central role in our lives. From shopping for food and clothing, to entertaining ourselves and even ordering a taxi, it's hard to imagine life without the internet.

As technology continues to develop, this dependency is likely to grow, with the internet expanding beyond the web, and into everyday objects, as well. This is the "Internet of Things" (IoT), using networks to link objects so they can send and receive data.

This technological development, alongside AI, is designed to increase automation, producing greater efficiency and convenience for us in our working and personal lives. This technology is predicted to have a huge impact, but what does this mean economically?

Does automation mean fewer jobs?

Simply put, on paper, automation leads to job losses. Already, machines have replaced human labor in manufacturing industries, and the development of AI means that numerous jobs will be performed by machines in the future, with one study suggesting that 800 million workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030.

While many job roles may become obsolete as technology continues to develop, this does not necessarily mean that 800 million of us will be queueing at the Jobcentre. New technology creates new opportunities, and for those willing to retrain and adapt, new jobs as well. Automation is being pursued not to replace human labor, but to support it, with this technological change holding the potential for an economic revolution.

Previous economic revolutions

Historically, economic revolutions have occurred through new technological developments, which push forward industry, creating great periods of change and ultimately, greater economic prosperity.

The industrial revolution is perhaps the most famous example, which began in the mid 18th Century in Britain. Powered by the development of machinery, the rise of industrial production led to considerable economic growth across the western world, and eventually improved standards of living.

Similarly, the rise of computers and communication technology in the 1960s onwards brought about another economic revolution. The advent of the personal computer changed the face of how we work forever, changing many job roles in the process.

The "Internet of Things" can be aligned within this tradition, as it represents another huge technological development that could change the way we work for decades to come, driving forward change, and potentially increasing average income in the US between 20 to 30 percent by 2030.

How will this work?

As occurred with the technological developments in previous economic revolutions, IoT is designed to increase productivity through greater efficiency. Through massive amounts of data being transferred, technology will be automated, meaning greater efficiency, and less wasted time and materials. Automation of previously human-intensive work means that, in theory, people previously working in these roles are free to invest their time elsewhere, leading to greater productivity, and further opportunities.

Whether the "Internet of Things" will have the same impact as previous technological developments is yet to be seen. It does, however, hold considerable potential for economic change. Instead of being a cause for concern, history suggests that these periods of change lead to greater prosperity, with the "Internet of Things" representing a very real economic revolution.

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‘The House That Will Not Stand’: Film In Development On Free Black Women Who Became Millionaires, Fought Racial Oppression In 1800s

This story originally appeared on Shadow and Act, a property of Blavity Inc. 

Playwright Marcus Gardley’s award-winning historical play The House That Will Not Stand is on its way to becoming a film.

MWM Studios is the company behind the adaptation of the play to film, according to Deadline, and Gardley, who has also written for shows like Showtime’s hit The Chiwill write the script. The plot is something that hasn’t been explored a lot in Hollywood — free Black women living in 1800s New Orleans.

As the article states, The House That Will Not Stand, a historical dramedy, is vaguely inspired by The House of Bernarda Alba by Carcia Lorca and is set in Faubourg Treme in 1813. The main characters are free Black Creole women who fought against racism and became millionaires through plaçage, or the practice of common-law marriages between white men and Black women, biracial women of color, or Native American women). The play, which premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop this year, was directed by Liliana Blain-Cruz and starred Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Juliana Canfield, Harriet D. Foy, Lynda Gravátt, Nedra McClyde, Marie Thomas and Michelle Wilson.

People have been clamoring for a different type of story about Blackness in America, something made even more apparent with the amount of backlash Green Book has gotten from viewers, critics and from the family of Mahershala Ali’s character, Dr. Don Shirley. A lot of films have been about Blackness from a white perspective, and while The House That Will Not Stand is far from the movie theater right now, the plot alone promises something fresher and more interesting than the usual depth films about race often go to–the 1960s and 1970s, two decades of racial turmoil that are the freshest in the mainstream memory.

5 Important Things to Know About Net Neutrality Before The Dec. 10 Deadline

November 29 is the final National Day of Action in the fight to restore Obama-era net neutrality rules. To mark the day, we've put together everything you need to know about the issue.

What Is Net Neutrality? 

As of right now, internet users across the United States can all visit the same websites and use the same digital services at the same speed (as long as the proper physical infrastructure is in place). Internet service providers like AT&T and Verizon can't make you pay more for access to certain websites and can't throttle your internet speed as they see fit. This is Obama-era net neutrality: these gatekeepers must be neutral parties, allowing users to fairly access the whole of the (legal) internet. 

What's With The National Day Of Action?

The Trump administration opposes the Obama-era rules, and wants to end government oversight of internet service providers. As USA Today reports, the FCC, which sets policy for service providers, repealed rules against throttling and blocking content at the end of 2017.

Critics of the new rules, including some large companies like Netflix, protested the change, and put pressure on lawmakers to vote to protect the Obama-era rules. These campaigns made up the first Days of Action, and were somewhat successful; a bipartisan vote in the U.S. Senate struck down the Trump administration rules in May, Ars Techinca reports.

The bill then went over to the House, where it went nowhere. In fact, it hasn't even been brought to the floor. Which brings us to the present. 

The Senate's pro-net neutrality bill needs to pass the House by December 10 to stay alive. Activists decided to try to rally Americans and their representatives ahead of that deadline by spreading the word about the upcoming vote on November 29.  

In an open letter posted to Deadline For Net Neutrality, activists wrote, "the FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality is one of the most undemocratic in recent history."

The letter also calls net neutrality "the basic underlying principle that has allowed the Internet to thrive since its inception" and argues "without it, monopolistic Internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T — some of the least popular companies in the United States — will become the dictators of our online experience."

Those behind the letter hope people will sign a petition on the site, and that bringing those signatures to the House will force representatives to take action.

Do The Activists Have A Chance Of Success?

Currently, pro-net neutrality representatives are circulating a discharge petition in order to force a vote on the Senate's bill. If these representatives can get 218 of their colleagues to sign the petition, the bill must come to the floor for a vote.

As Wired reports, currently 177 representatives have signed. A new New York Democrat who won a special election promised to sign as soon as he's sworn in, which will bring the total to 178. There are 18 Democrats in the House who haven't joined in on the petition as of yet; if all of them jumped on the bandwagon, net neutrality proponents would still need 22 Republicans to break ranks with the president and sign on as well. 

As Senate Republicans chose to help get the current neutrality defense bill out of their chamber, it isn't impossible some GOP representatives might do the same. Even if the bill clears the House, however, President Trump has said he'd veto it once it reaches his desk, meaning it wouldn't become law. Some sort of compromise could be worked out with the president, but this isn't likely.

What Can We Do To Save Neutrality? 

A few things:

1. If you are concerned about neutrality and want to bring Obama-era guidelines back, you can sign Deadline For Net Neutrality's petition

2. You can also lobby your representative to sign the discharge petition. Medium has a list of Democrats who have yet to sign. Mike Coffman (R-CO) is the only House Republican to have signed, according to Fight for the Future. 

3. Another option is organizing at the local level. Several states have passed net neutrality provisions affecting their own borders, as the National Conference of State Legislatures notes. If you live in California, Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii or Washington, your local government has your back. If you don't, contact your state and city officials to push for state-level internet protections. 

Even if you live in one of the above states, you aren't in the clear. The FCC has said states have no legal right to weigh in on net neutrality, arguing that it's a federal issue. Because of this, lawsuits are keeping the laws from being enforced, and your state could use support. You can help out by making sure you support candidates for attorney general that will continue to battle the federal government on the issue.

4. You could also run for office. The next class of representatives has said they plan on making net neutrality a priority. As Democrats will hold the majority in the House, this new class could get something done. However, the Senate will be more Republican by the time the new session of Congress starts, meaning any legislation leaving the House could stall in the Senate. If you have a senator or representative that opposes net neutrality, you could run against them, or could volunteer in the campaign of a pro-net neutrality candidate. 

How Does All Of This Affect People Of Color?

Mignon Cylburn, the first black female FCC commissioner, voted against the repeal of net neutrality earlier this year and issued a scathing dissent. In her letter, she highlighted the impact the repeal could have on communities of color.

"Particularly damning is what today’s repeal will mean for marginalized groups, like communities of color, that rely on platforms like the internet to communicate, because traditional outlets do not consider their issues or concerns, worthy of any coverage," she wrote.

"It was through social media that the world first heard about Ferguson, Missouri, because legacy news outlets did not consider it important until the hashtag started trending. It has been through online video services, that targeted entertainment has thrived, where stories are finally being told because those same programming were repeatedly rejected by mainstream distribution and media outlets. And it has been through secure messaging platforms, where activists have communicated and organized for justice without gatekeepers with differing opinions blocking them." 

Today, most of us are active on social media. Some of the things we share aren't universally beloved, and could be blocked by service providers. For example, those #TakeAKnee videos you saw on your feeds? If an internet service provider felt those kneeling were unpatriotic and didn't want you seeing them protesting, they could block you from seeing them with a few lines of code. Similarly, videos of police brutality or Black Lives Matter content could be censored. 

Every sector could be affected. If Blavity always loaded super, super slowly for you because your internet service provider was throttling it, would you wait for the page to load to get our content? What if the same thing happened to Black Twitter? If you had to pay extra to stream the work of Black artists, would you?

Should the House fail to act, and the new rules take effect, we could all find out the answers to those questions.

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First Black Female FCC Commissioner Issues Scathing Dissent On Net Neutrality Repeal 

There Is Still A Chance To Save Net Neutrality And We Should All Care.

What You Need To Know About The FCC's Plan To End Net Neutrality

Why We Must Stop Racist Facial Surveillance Being Sold By Amazon To Law Enforcement Agencies

Rage and tears followed the murder of Nia Wilson, an 18-year old Black woman from Oakland, who was killed while exiting a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train one Sunday evening in July. These were appropriate reactions in the wake of such a tragedy, especially from community members incensed by the seemingly relentless targeted killing of Black people across the nation by police and racist vigilantes. But there were inappropriate responses as well. Among the worst of these came from BART authorities that responded with a proposal for widely expanding transit surveillance. One BART policymaker went as far as to call for the widespread use of facial recognition technology.

Let’s be clear: expanded surveillance and facial recognition technology are not the solution. Would these technologies have prevented Nia Wilson’s murder? No. Instead of preventing race-based hate crimes, expanded surveillance will just put more people of color at risk, adding insult to injury, salt to an open wound.

When government agencies propose surveillance to “keep us safe,” I think about 18th century lantern laws. These laws forced black people and Native Americans to carry lit candles at night so that they could be easily seen, and therefore controlled by slave owners and those empowered by a slave state. I think about the FBI wiretapping Martin Luther King, Jr. and infiltrating the lives of U.S. Civil Rights organizers and organizations of the 1960s. I think about how law enforcement agencies continue to weaponize technology, to track Black Lives Matter activists on social media, identify and profile people by skin tone in New York or spy on black neighborhoods from the sky in Memphis.

The underlying conditions of systemic racism that drive surveillance are still very much in place. There is no reason to believe that new surveillance technology will be used any differently than it has been in the past. Like the systems that came before it, face surveillance will be used to target people of color, violate the human rights of immigrants and suppress the free speech of activists. Face surveillance will put these communities in more danger, not make us safer.

Even in the context of centuries of discriminatory surveillance, face surveillance technology poses a legitimately unprecedented threat. It is a tipping point that puts democratic freedoms and dissent in peril by taking government spying to a speed and scale that we’ve never seen before. Which is why we were so alarmed to learn that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was actively aiding and abetting racial discrimination and xenophobia by selling his face surveillance product, Rekognition, to local police departments. And also why we acted quickly to stop BART from considering this dangerous technology.

Expanded surveillance using face recognition technology will target and repress, not save or protect, Black people and other people of color. The very real need to curb racially-motivated violence should not be used to advance false technological solutions that further threaten public safety. This is, in effect, what a coalition of racial justice advocates, including the Center for Media Justice and the ACLU of Northern California, told BART decision-makers in response to their proposal.

The BART Board listened. They withdrew their proposal for expanded surveillance and adopted a surveillance oversight ordinance that made sure BART riders have a seat at the table when it comes to public safety decisions.

But the fight is far from over.

As BART carefully considered and made the right decision to protect community members, Amazon has continued to enthusiastically build and sell its Rekognition face surveillance product to the government. And Amazon has refused to disclose who these local, state and federal government customers actually are — despite being asked by numerous members of Congress.

Some people say they have nothing to hide, so more surveillance technologies won’t place them at risk. Nothing could be further from the truth. Consider this: half of all U.S. adults are already in a law enforcement facial recognition database. That means that for one out of two of us, face surveillance could already be used to track who we are, where we go and what we do. And we know that the government already wants to flip the switch on face surveillance in officer body-worn cameras, turning technology that is supposed to be used for police accountability into another tool to further surveil already over-policed communities.

Researchers like Joy Buolamwini, at M.I.T. have also consistently shown that face recognition is far less accurate when used on women and Black people than for the rest of the population. Hundreds of thousands of women and Black people, and ironically Black women just like Nia Wilson, stand to be incorrectly identified. Add in the supercomputer processing power that a company like Amazon provides, and you create a potential tsunami of biased systems that could be used for racial and gender profiling. It is communities of color who will be most impacted by this technological disaster.

Unlike the burgeoning natural disasters around us, face surveillance is a problem with a clear solution, a storm that we can and must stop. We’ve seen an enormous groundswell of opposition: more than 150,000 signatures have been delivered to Amazon HQ, a coalition letter signed by 70 civil rights groups. A letter was sent from Amazon shareholders and another from academics, and a number of employee protests have all demanded that Amazon stop selling face surveillance to the government.

Elected officials are also getting involved. The Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter emphasizing the harm face surveillance is likely to cause Black people, undocumented immigrants and protesters. Reps. Jimmy Gomez and John Lewis demanded a meeting with Bezos after Amazon Rekognition falsely matched them and other politicians with mugshots. Going forward, we need elected leaders like California Senator Kamala Harris to champion laws that ban the use of facial recognition by government agencies.

Right now, Amazon and other companies — both large and small — also must stop selling face surveillance to the government. Make no mistake. If a company is profiting from face surveillance, it is communities of color that are paying the price. Our communities are already in the crosshairs of racist vigilantes and being targeted by high tech surveillance systems wielded by local and federal law enforcement agencies who have a terrifying track record of misconduct and abuse. Any company that provides face surveillance to local and federal law enforcement in the current political climate is on the wrong side of history.

#ThotAudit Campaign Threatens To Report Sex Workers To The IRS

A group of internet trolls are threatening to report sex workers to the IRS.

It all began on Sunday when the hashtag #ThotAudit began to circulate on Twitter thanks to blogger Daryush Valizadeh, according to Newsweek. Valizadeh claimed the movement was started by a Facebook user known as David Wu. The #ThotAudit movement calls on men to report women who make money from social media accounts used to send sexual videos and pictures to the IRS, arguing that the women are dodging taxes.

The hashtag caught on with right-wing trolls, misogynists and incels, or involuntarily celibate men, with clearly too much time on their hands.

As the hastag picked up steam, a number of allies made their support for sex workers known.

Despite the celebration among the incels, it would appear the trolls don’t have a leg to stand on. According to Motherboard, the IRS needs to know a lot of a person’s business for a report to be successful.

The agency requires reports to include a taxpayer identification number, a full legal name, the estimated amount of unreported income and a home address. Additionally, reports cannot be made anonymously or under a pseudonym. Finally, the all of that information has to be mailed in and is never accepted electronically.

Despite these strict guidelines, #ThotAudit rattled many sex workers, with some saying they've left the industry.

“I think it was all a big joke at first that went way out of hand, because now this large group of men are reporting sex workers to the IRS for tax evasion, and all of these women are shutting down their accounts now in fear that they’re going to be arrested for doing sex work,” an anonymous sex worker told Motherboard. “I don’t know if it actually matters or not, but a lot of girls are now losing their primary source of income because they’re afraid they’re going to get charged.”

Another woman, who relies on the online sale of content to pay her bills, said she's shut down her accounts. “I halted any and every subscription I had because I don’t want to get into any more trouble than I’ll already be in if it does go through."

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#Consumers2Creators: How African-Americans Are Dominating The Digital World By Pursuing A ‘For Us, By Us’ Mentality

Nielsen’s 2018 report, “Consumers to Creators: The Digital Lives of Black Consumers”, revealed that 54 percent of African-Americans are 34 and younger, meaning the majority were born and raised in the era of rapid digital media advancements. The report makes a case that a “Black Renaissance” is taking place within the African-American community, largely due to the community’s access to technological devices and usage.

The Consumers to Creators report highlights how the African-American demographic has largely impacted the way digital content is produced in the United States. Generationally, new technologies inherently change the way we do business and today’s ever-changing digital world is no different. Tech is everywhere; it’s in the palm of our hand and literally a fingertip away significantly altering the way we handle business, consume brands and engage with the world.  

With the rising use of digital platforms like social media, podcasts, video streaming and more, African-Americans are now shifting from the role of consumer to successful content creator. These platforms give African-Americans the opportunity to influence, express our culture and become entrepreneurs in our own right.

“We are on the threshold of a new business paradigm,” said Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen. “The digital age is transforming not only commerce and the relationship consumers have with companies, but digital know-how among consumers – particularly African Americans – is fostering new levels of independence and financial freedom.”

Because of the significant impact Black Americans are making as media catalysts and creators, we are filling in the gaps that have been unfulfilled by mainstream media and now catering to our own audience through innovation – and with innovation comes opportunity.  Since technology has opened the doors for innovation and ownership within our communities, the report states that Black entrepreneurs are developing new platforms, generating new content and marketing new products.

The Nielsen report also states that African-Americans are now identifying gaps in entertainment, product delivery and services. African-Americans are using technology to fill those gaps and bypass barriers to critique, connect, collaborate, create and ultimately compete with companies that have failed to cater and understand our community’s unique needs.

For African-Americans, these advancements and innovations have played integral roles in how Black households have redefined class and navigated socioeconomic status, while also staying up to speed with an evolving American business landscape. Because of this, the black community is open to new opportunities, entrepreneurship and educational advancement which in turn unearths opportunities to establish black-owned businesses and thrive economically.

Actor, activist and entrepreneur Jesse Williams, for example, is one digital creator who personifies the consumer to creator message. Williams co-created the mobile game BLeBRiTY, which celebrates the Black experience. The charades-inspired game targets Black consumers with categories such as ‘Momma Phrases’, ‘Bad and Bougie’ and ‘The 90s.’’ It has gained much success from winning a Webby Award, being selected as “Game of the Day” and featured in the top spot on the iTunes AppStore charts.

“Undisputedly the vanguards and early adopters of popular American cultural trends, African- Americans have fully embraced today’s digitally connected marketplace,” said Andrew McCaskill, SVP of Global Communications and Multicultural Marketing at Nielsen. “Black consumers are engaged and plugged into a digital, multi-platform universe in ways that are redefining the African American experience with an unprecedented sense of community, economic consciousness and digital-native know-how.”

According to Nielsen’s report, since Black consumers are taking a “for us, by us” approach to becoming entrepreneurs by building their own platforms and businesses, new Black financial ecosystems are being created. Some examples of people in the entertainment industry who are taking this approach include musicians Jaden Smith and Ray J. They are taking advantage of the strong online presence by creating and promoting successful businesses in the digital economy. Smith is running an eco-minded plastic recycling company he founded with his dad, Will Smith, and Ray J has an electric transportation start-up.

Many African-Americans have used social media as a platform for content creation, where people have turned their presence online into successful businesses by receiving entertainment contracts and endorsement deals. They have also used social media to celebrate our culture, voice our opinion and promote social justice and political awareness. With their ability to critique and connect, African-Americans are also holding brands accountable on social media platforms. With Twitter specifically, many share their thoughts on past and current issues that are affecting the culture today. Movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite are making mainstream America more vigilant and aware of the issues that are affecting us today.

And since representation matters for consumers of color, companies such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple are making big investments in Black experience-centered content too, as they’re seeing Black Americans have a big influence on content creation. According to the report, Black communities have a buying power of $1.3 trillion and consumers have used this power to support brands that align with their preferences and give up supporting brands that do the opposite. A recent Nielsen analysis of television viewership found that shows with a predominantly Black cast or a storyline focused on a Black character are drawing substantial non-Black viewership. Networks are seeing that authentic Black storytelling is the key to increase numbers in viewership and loyalty to their companies.

All in all, digital media has changed how African-Americans consume entertainment, communicate and even promote social justice. Since we are a demographic that likes to stay connected with one another, Black Americans have adopted digital formats at a higher rate than the general population and have used the formats as a powerful platform to amplify our voices. The digital world has enabled us to create, share and control our own content while making an impact on not only entertainment, but education and social awareness too.

This piece is brought to you by Nielsen.