Changed your Facebook profile picture to a rainbow flag? You may have been part of another big experiment

Over the weekend, Facebook was awash with rainbows. People were using a simple profile picture editing tool created by the social networking site in support of same sex marriage.

The ‘Celebrate Pride‘ tool was launched to coincide with a US Supreme Court decision that marriage equality was a constitutional right.

Within just a few hours more than a MILLION people changed their profile picture, but many critics were quick to accuse the social network of carrying out yet anotherFacebook psychological experiment on its users.

As pointed out in this Atlantic article, Facebook is famous for its data harvesting and analysing capabilities and has conducted experiments to manipulate people’s moods and their voting behaviour.

Facebook is very interested in how ideas spread across its platform and in 2013 one of the company’s data scientists studied how a red equals sign (the logo of the Human Rights Campaign) in support of marriage equality became such a popular profile picture.

The researchers found that Facebook users became more likely to change their profile picture to support gay marriage the more their friends did so.


Out in Tech: What it’s like to be LGBT in an industry struggling with diversity

Liz Rush was excited to put her new coding skills to the test when she took her first internship at a Seattle-area company. But then the graduate of Ada Developers Academy arrived on the job.

“I experienced things like having to pair all day with someone who would make comments about how I should be more open-minded about having sex with men,” said Rush, a lesbian who previously worked as a translator.

Rush, who was just beginning her new career as a developer, said she didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to confront the homophobic remarks during her six-month internship.

“I was struggling at an internship with sexual violence jokes and team members making disparaging remarks about women in tech programs,” she said. “For me, it felt like I had so much shit to overcome.”

Stories like Rush’s are not unusual in an industry that is still struggling with diversity. It was only last year that major companies, including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon, released numbers addressing male/female ratios and ethnicity — numbers that were predominantly male and white. One of the year’s highest profile lawsuits, the Ellen Pao case, involved sexual discrimination in Silicon Valley (she lost).

While there are many talented LGBT people working in tech, there is no industry-wide data, according to LGBT groups who follow the industry. And while many tech companies are inclusive, there are still many hurdles to overcome to support LGBT tech workers.

Yet visibility is growing. The past year has been a busy one for headlines in LGBT and tech: Apple CEO Tim Cook’s penned a letter in Bloomberg Businessweek in which he wrote: “I’m proud to be gay.”’s Marc Benioff, along with countless other tech executives, took a stand against Indiana’s anti-gay business law. At this weekend’s Pride Parade in Seattle, T-Mobile is the biggest sponsor, in addition to supporting LGBT Pride in 21 other states.

As Seattle gears up to celebrate Pride this weekend, GeekWire decided to explore what it’s like working in tech for many in the LGBT community. Experiences vary vastly by person and company, but there are some underlying issues that the tech world has yet to address to be more welcoming, including letting go of the “brogrammer” mind-set, benefits that support LGBT workers’ needs and eliminating the chilling effect of “don’t ask, don’t tell” that many in the LGBT community encounter.

After the disparaging remarks, Rush thought about leaving the tech world, returning to her job as a translator. But she stuck it out, graduating from Ada Developers Academy and taking a job at Nordstrom’s Innovation Lab before moving on to Seattle dating startup Siren.

“I felt my being a woman was more a barrier to being in tech than being gay,” she said. “Now, going to conferences, meetups and being part of the tech community, I often find that men are wiling to act as if I’m one of the guys in that they like to express their objectification and misogyny toward women around me because we both like women.”

Rush’s experience fielding sexual innuendos and comments seems to be a fairly common occurrence for lesbians in tech.

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The Slow Pace of Social Change In The Worlds Largest “Land of Freedom”

Fantastic news in the US for the LGBT movement as same-sex marriage is approved albeit by a slight margin of 5-4 allowing President Obama to head out of office with a milestone achievement under his belt, despite the trialsome time of his presidency. The picture above shows just how happy the White House was with the result that saw gay marriage but not all types of marriage approved by the Supreme Court of the United States.
One of the most maligned US media organizations, Fox, took a defensive stance against the decision in Pastor Robert Jeffress article wherein he attacks the decision because he perceives the damage it will have on business owners and others as the law is enacted. As mentioned, Fox is often maligned for its apparent extreme views often touted in TV prime time tirades against anything they can come up with that attempts to connect to a likely mainly Southern US community through religious or racial indignation.
There will always be those who stand up for their beliefs through verbal abuse or even physical abuse, commonly know as bullies or bigots, but a trend in law towards broader human equality, common sense will eventually win out. The sad thing is that so often US freedoms in the land of the free seem to come along later than other Western world countries. For instance their northern neighbour Canada has allowed this since about 2005 and England more recently in 2014.
Now the latest law has been invoked what will be the next steps by its supporters? Well, in the US given its huge population and combination of legal structure at both the Federal and State levels, the tendency is to seek small wins and piece by slow piece build upon the core constitution. Ostensibly, the next step is to try to get this same equality for broader implicationssuch as job security and recognition for financial purposes and ensuring that all states and communities agree to comply. The point is that no sooner is a battle won than its on to the next one and the battles can be long and hard for even small gains.
As Americans look towards their own country matters more than the countries they have been involved in with conflicts, does it behoove them to find faster ways to adapt to new ways of living to enable their youth to emerge with new ideas and less biases?

Camilla Wood

UK based Legal Aid Lawyer

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