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Congressman Emanuel Cleaver

Representing the 5th District of MISSOURI

Internet Association Responds to Congressman Cleaver’s Call for Diversity in Tech

Jan 24, 2018
Press Release
After much discussion from Congressman Cleaver and Congresswoman Watson Coleman, IA says it will create a new role to work on diversity and inclusion workforce policies

(Washington, D.C.) – Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II was pleased to hear that Internet Association (IA) has announced it will create a new position within the organization to work on diversity and workforce policies in the tech industry. The IA is a trade association representing major technology firms like Amazon, Facebook and Google. In a letter addressed to Congressman Cleaver and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), the President and CEO of IA, Michael Beckerman, stated the new Director of Diversity and Inclusion Policy will lead and coordinate a range of initiatives regarding discrimination and diversity issues.

“The Internet Association has responded in a very serious and pro-active 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. It is critical that this position be given a high level of authority and respect such that any perceived racial and gender biases can be immediately identified and addressed,” said Congressman Cleaver.

“I am pleased that the Internet Association took our concerns seriously and took swift action, although preliminary, to ensure their leadership and organization adequately represents the diversity of their consumers and the American public. As we work to combat the intricacies and severity of cybersecurity threats and the manipulation of technical platforms, 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. While this is a first step in the right direction, I look forward to working with the Internet Association more to ensure that our social media and tech leaders operate responsibly on behalf of the users and communities that we represent,” said Congresswoman Watson Coleman.

“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. The new Director of Diversity and Inclusion Policy will allow us to do this in a more engaged and comprehensive way,” stated Mr. Beckerman in the letter.

Congressman Cleaver has been a leader in fighting discrimination in the tech industry and advocating for racial justice on social media platforms.

In November of 2017, Congressman Cleaver and Congresswoman Watson Coleman wrote to the IA demanding accountability from the organization. The letter can be read here. The members urged the organization to stop the spread of racial and gender bias through technology and adopt practices to hold IA members accountable when it comes to the rise of Artificial Intelligence technology and the use of potentially discriminatory algorithms.

Last month, Congressman Cleaver and Congresswoman Watson Coleman sent a letter to Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, encouraging him to take immediate action to combat the spread of racially divisive communications and take seriously the threat of foreign entities’ use of the site to undermine American democracy. Twitter responded by stating it would enforce new policies to ban racist and violent posts from its platform.

Cleaver was also among members of the Congressional Black Caucus who met with, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, to discuss allegations that Russian-backed agencies exploited the company’s system to influence the outcome of the 2016 election through the spread of racial and discriminatory messaging. Facebook responded with a series of policy changes and has since appointed its first African American to its Board of Directors.

“Although, there is still much work to be done, I believe this is a step in the right direction. A step up to a more inclusive workforce, reflective of our society,” said Congressman Cleaver.

Emanuel Cleaver, II is the U.S. Representative for Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, which includes Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Raytown, Grandview, Sugar Creek, Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Oak Grove, North Kansas City, Gladstone, Claycomo, and all of Ray, Lafayette, and Saline Counties. He is a member of the exclusive House Financial Services Committee, the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance, and also a Senior Whip of the Democratic Caucus. For more information, please contact Heather Frierson at 816-842-4545 or Heather.Frierson@mail.house.gov A high-resolution photo of Congressman Cleaver is available here.