The ticking clock of unpleasantness
‘The media are just being negative to get clicks, ignore them and they’ll go away’ — that’s the all too common mantra in Silicon Valley tech.
About three years ago, the tech press stopped heaping unquestioning praise on tech companies and began holding them to account. You can argue that they sometimes go too far (some of the criticism of Facebook has scraped the barrel, for example), but on the whole, 'you’re abusing data,’ 'you’re abusing workers,’ and 'you’re putting growth ahead of social responsibility’ are points Silicon Valley tech needs to hear repeatedly.
The problem is, Silicon Valley doesn’t want to hear it.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I came across this thread
by New York Times journalist Mike Isaac. He was discussing US food delivery firm DoorDash’s controversial policy of using tips from customers as a way to pay workers less out of its own pocket, rather than as a way for workers to earn more.
By refusing to engage in much depth on the issue, DoorDash hopes it will go away, despite the fact the tips policy is a net bad for society.
Viewing the press as 'haters,’ Isaac says, “deflects from internalizing any actual legitimate criticism (even if not all of it is on the mark), and that does not serve the company/employees in the long run.”
This is correct. When your entire company is built around achieving the maximum upside for investors within the lifespan of their VC funds, you’re going to opt for growth at all costs.
Whether it’s playing fast and loose with users’ data, stealing tips from delivery workers, or letting a misogynistic work culture run rampant because you’re growing too fast to address it, those costs can look pretty awful to the rest of the world. And they have a drip-drip effect of lowering our expectations for what businesses should be, and making the world a little worse every day.
Silicon Valley talks about making the world a better place. Perhaps it’s time to find a way of fuelling R&D-heavy tech companies that doesn’t put a ticking clock towards a mega-size exit ahead of everything else.