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Coinbase’s « no politics » experiment might very well backfire

 — 2 octobre 2020
Some tech CEOs just want to make great products and boost profits while ignoring politics, but neither 2020 nor their employees are letting them,

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong told employees in a memo Sunday that their company would henceforth take no political stands that are « unrelated to [their] core mission » and bar political conversation from its office.

The stresses of a bitter partisan election, a politicized pandemic, and climate-driven natural disasters have left many workplaces on edge. But the driving force behind Armstrong’s decree at Coinbase was an employee walkout in June by workers who wanted him to take a more activist public stand in support of Black Lives Matter, as Axios’ Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

Silicon Valley led the business world in understanding that many younger workers want to feel their jobs are making the world a better place, and tech firms crafted corporate missions that aim to inspire them.

  • Now, some of those workers are holding their firms accountable to those ideals — just as some leaders are backing off from them.
  • If you think such missions were cons to begin with — rhetorical fig-leaves over exploitative practices — then this flight from politics will simply confirm that cynicism.
  • But for employees who took their companies at their word and embraced idealistic missions, it’s a rude awakening.

The conflict goes far beyond Coinbase. Both Facebook and Google have taken steps in recent months to rein in once-freewheeling discussions of politics on company servers.

Every major tech firm today is facing questions from employees over a wide range of politically charged issues, including:

  • workforce and executive diversity failures;
  • ethical problems with their products;
  • questions about military contracts and work for authoritarian governments;
  • and, most prominently, the role of tech-built social networks in promoting misinformation and hate speech in the U.S. and around the world.

Big companies face a new political minefield as they weigh how to deal with a Trump administration executive order to scale back existing trainings around unconscious bias and systemic racism and sexism.

Armstrong’s memo sparked a heated debate among tech investors and leaders and has shone a bright light on Coinbase’s experiment.

If the firm can prosper and attract top engineering talent while eschewing politics, other companies might find its path attractive.

Thèmes : Démocratie, Travail  
Mots-clés : Activisme, Polarisation


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