I’ve talked before about the issue LinkedIn has with silencing Black, Brown, activist and anti-racist voices. Here’s another recent example.
One evening I saw and reshared a post urging white people to be active anti-racists. It spoke plainly, but wasn’t offensive. Others who saw the post can back me up on this.
Overnight, some comment notifications came in. But when I tried to click on them the next morning the original post was gone. Now, maybe the original poster took the post down, but given the engagement it was getting, that seems pretty unlikely.
What seems more likely is that someone felt threatened and reported the post and it got taken down. I don’t know for sure, but given the number of times this happens on LinkedIn every week, I’m going to go with my gut on this one. (See Holly Jahangiri’s take on it at the end of this piece for another possible explanation.)
As usual, LinkedIn is penalizing the wrong people. The motivations of those who would report an explicitly anti-racist post are clearly suspect, but in my experience their feelings are ALWAYS prioritized over the feelings and experiences of people who experience isms. The only thing that’s changed is that instead of staying silent, we’re constantly calling LinkedIn out on this.
This usually results in what my sister Lisa Hurley calls “performative helposity”. This case was no different. LinkedIn Help replied to my post asking for my email and a link to the original post (you know, the one they removed that I couldn’t get to) so they could DM me.
Now, I’m registered on the platform, so I know they have my email. If they can’t find that information, are they in the right business? It just seems like a way to fob me off by putting the communication ball in my court, when it should be in theirs.
Second, taking this to DM simply means they want to shut down the public conversation. Luckily, my LinkedIn network is fabulous, and called them out several times in the comments.
And third, this happens too often for it to be a coincidence, and not just on LinkedIn. It’s a problem on most of the major platforms.
I, and many others, have posted about suppression of our voices and the voices of the anti-racist community multiple times throughout the year. I’ve also written several articles, including:
August 2020 - Writing about racism while Black
August 2020 - Amplification in action
September 2020 - We will not be silenced
October 2020 - Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman on social media
April 2021 - Anti-Black Algorithms? Here’s More Evidence
November 2021 - I forgot to screenshot
The problem is rife! Not only is content removed, but sometimes people’s accounts are shut down. Some activists have left LinkedIn altogether, and those who stay would be wise to build their own audiences outside the platform, just in case.
LinkedIn’s Inaction Speaks Louder Than Words
At this point, LinkedIn can’t be unaware of the suppression issue, so it suggests that solving it isn’t a priority for them. If actions speak louder than words, and they do, LinkedIn’s actions show that no matter WHAT they say about diversity, it’s mostly performative, because what they actually DO is shut down the voices of people who experience isms, and then make us jump through hoops to get content restored, if we can. Many of us screenshot our posts and any suspect comments as standard. It’s yet another exhausting task we shouldn’t have to do just so we have evidence to back up our reports. (Our word isn’t always good enough, which is a whole other story.)
I’m not about shutting down dissenting voices; you can disagree with me about racism if you want. I just won’t engage.
But I AM about pushing back against hate speech and harassment. In the last six months, I’ve had DM conversations with LinkedIn Help about six different incidents. I’ve also reported multiple comments (not just on my own posts) for harassment and hate. Half the time, LinkedIn finds they don’t violate the TOS the first time round. If I ask them to look again, then often the content gets removed. But the onus is always on me to follow it up. This is then followed by a boilerplate apology, so they really don’t care.
I don’t know how my fellow activists, who have to deal with even more negative comments and trolling, manage to cope. This is why so many of us are tired, but it’s also why we can’t give up.
Is there any hope left for LinkedIn? I’m struggling to find it. I’m happy that I’m not totally reliant on that, or any other platform. I get to talk to you directly through emails and comments. And I’m becoming more active on a new platform focused on diversity, equity, inclusion and wellness. It’s called Linked Inclusion, is pretty welcoming and so far, troll free. I invite you to join me there.
Have you seen or experienced suppression when talking about racism and anti-racism on social media? I’d love to hear your experience.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. My friend Holly Jahangiri, who’s very smart about these things due to her background in data science, suspects that an algorithmic blunt instrument is to blame, picking up individual keywords divorced from context, linguistic syntax, and sentiment. She’s probably right, but I still feel LinkedIn should do better.
P.P.S. Just after writing this the post mysteriously reappeared, which proves that LinkedIn took it down in the first place. I’m grateful for all those who helped to get the LinkedIn powers that be to take another look. Should we have had to jump through hoops? No! But it’s good to know that being vocal about being silenced can get the right result - sometimes!
UPDATE 22/11/021 - I’ve started keeping track of LinkedIn content suppression here: The Ongoing Evidence That LinkedIn is Censoring Black Creators.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.