Clubhouse: Capitalized Racial Bias And The Silencing Of Black Voices
Despite my clear disdain for Clubhouse, and the pernicious love-hate relationship, the app is one of the most effective for networking and learning.
February 24, 2021 at 4:39 pm
Opinions are the writer’s own and not the views of Blavity.
I was suspended from Clubhouse. It’s a common discussion in the rooms of the invite-only audio app, as more Black people find themselves victim to a faulty blocking and reporting system, racial bias and cultural ignorance. All this, despite Black people propelling the company forward and saving it from irrelevancy.
The silencing and shadow banning of rooms where Black people, with opposing views discuss Black liberation or engage in a game of "the dozens,'' where they voluntarily roast each other relentlessly, does not appear to be welcomed — unless it makes a progessive far left audience of one comfortable. The Clubhouse suffragists, who consistently encourage listeners to report and block those who they disagree with, have surprisingly turned into victims now, as they watch their tribe suffer the same punishment they brought upon those they targeted with non-stop false reporting, blocking, and trolling. It is a classic case of the bullied becoming the bully, and with Clubhouse's coddling nature, many adults have achieved new heights of self-inflicted victimhood.
I won’t go into the catty behavior I fell into on the app, which could easily be labeled RHOC (Real Housewives of Clubhouse). Let’s just say it all stemmed from my decision to participate in challenging conversations with people deemed problematic. A clear misrepresentation of the facts led to a virtual word-of-mouth campaign, via Clubhouse, to tarnish my reputation, in hopes of getting me suspended, because of my right to enter rooms of my choice and express my thoughts. Instead of applauding my unshakeable ability to stand in the gap and verbally assassinate misogynistic men’s abusive rhetoric aimed at Black women, these self-promoted gatekeepers, perplexed by my strength to engage with such men, declared I was aligning with those I had called narcissists and encouraged their followers to report me. And I am not the only Black person targeted with such efforts. I would be remiss if I did not say that those committing these malicious acts look like me.
Suppression of Black voices is not exclusive to Clubhouse, or even Black people. White people are having the same issue but for different reasons, and research shows their experience is likely not as aggressive. Because Clubhouse does not disclose how it determines who to suspend, or when or why, verbal attacks, expletives and rumors are shouted between users in rooms, spin off rooms are made to draw an allegiance and all of it is leading to more divisiveness amongst the Black Clubhouse community. The culprit is certainly people using the reporting button as vengeance, but many believe that artificial intelligence (AI) models, possibly used by the app, and racist algorithms are supporting their spiteful efforts.
A study, by researchers at the University of Washington, found AI models are 2.2 times more likely to flag and identify posts by Black people as hate speech. That’s because the models are built, or could be built, by those who are racially bias and culturally ignorant. Facebook and Instagram, had to take a hard look at their system after reports of Black users being consistently targeted and silenced. In a blog, written by Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, he acknowledged the problematic algorithms, writing, “Black people are often harassed, afraid of being ‘shadowbanned,’ and disagree with many content takedowns.” We can only hope that Clubhouse founders follow his lead, and ensure their algorithms are not unfairly suspending Black people who do not subscribe to a white liberal monolithic way of thinking.
Despite my clear disdain for Clubhouse, and the pernicious love-hate relationship, the app is one of the most effective for networking and learning. However, it’s impossible to trust the true intentions of the app, now that Black people and the rap industry have turned Clubhouse into a billion-dollar brand. It's as if they don't need us anymore. Let's not forget it was controversial stories, involving Black celebrities like Tory Larenz and Kevin Hart, on Clubhouse that got America's attention in the first place. And now, even the rich and famous amongst us are being kicked off for unknown reasons.
The paranoia of losing your account simply for possibly discussing issues such as the LGBTQ community, as a heterosexual person, or arguing your right to first dib on reparations, as a American descendant of slavery (ADOS), is palpable.
In a time of social justice, Black Lives Matter and the celebration of a Black woman as Vice President, allowing people to weaponize their personal traumas, and successfully unite to remove people without a thorough investigation by Clubhouse, or an explanation to what wrong was done, is too close of a reminder that Black people are more likely to be found guilty until proven innocent, even on social media.