Does Your Social Media Policy Create a Platform for Racism?

by cv harquail on May 17, 2011

I bet you don’t think it does.

I bet you think that your social media policy, and your ‘create a blog for our business using other people’s user-generated content’- approach, is impervious to racism masked as business advice, as research findings, or as interesting content.

I bet that’s exactly what thought, too.

They’ve got a stable of bloggers, most of them PhD psychologists and social psychologists, who supposedly are “qualified” to write for their site. These scientists generate content for them, so that can draw traffic and sell advertising space.

201105171711.jpgBut not all of these scientists practice a high quality of “science”. And one of these scientists, already notorious for the social bias in his “research” “findings”, recently published a post that was decidedly not scientific.

Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist who styles himself as “The Scientific Fundamentalist” published a post entitled “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?

This content was decidedly “off brand” for Psychology Today. It was a clear display of racism, masquerading as science.

Readers were offended, and the post was taken down by’s editors — but not until after a lot of damage was done.

Damaged were Psychology Today’s reputation, the reputations of ‘s other contributors, the trust of readers, and the support of social media influences who drive traffic to

Damaged were the Black community, people of color and white people who are working against racism.

Also damaged were the Black women whose beauty and social value was “scientifically” deemed inadequate.

Indeed, it’s hard to see that anyone benefited from’s social media policy.

Except, of course, racists.

But has some form of social media policy —

Someone over at organized the post contribution system, where bloggers get access to PsychologyToday’s audience in exchange for publishing their individual content. Someone set up the digitized and interpersonal processes for gathering and vetting contributors. Someone permitted this particular “scientist “, a scientist with a suspect reputation, to publish his posts on

Someone did all of this without the help of a fully-considered social media policy.

Do you have a “someone” at your organization who’s in charge of putting content on your blogs? On your Facebook page? In your online community? On Twitter?

Does this “someone” use guidelines that specify who your business or organization brand is, what it believes in, and how it should be represented through this content? Does this someone have programs to teach contributors to uphold your standards?

Does your social media policy let contributors and your community know what you stand for, and what you won’t stand for?

Action Step: Sign this petition at Psychology Today: Stop Publishing Racist & Sexist Articles
The petition’s focus:

We demand that the Psychology Today editorial board publicly account for how and why this racist and sexist article was allowed to be published on the Psychology Today website, and take transparent steps to prevent this from happening in the future.

For great insights on the original article and reactions to it, see:

Why Black Women Rock! My Thoughts That Crazy Psychology Today Article By Dr. Phoenyx Austin on
A ‘Wow. Just. Wow’ article: ‘Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women? by Pam Spaulding at PamsHouseBlend
Beauty May Be In Eye of Beholder But Eyes See What Culture Socializes by Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D. at

Voices: The Satoshi Kanazawa Study & Repeat Offender: Satoshi Kanazawa’s Other Greatest Misses by Arturo R. Garcia at Racialicious

See also:

What Authenticity? Design Homophobia Out of the Organization

{ 1 comment }

Susan Macaulay May 18, 2011 at 2:33 am

Yo CV 🙂

Great post as usual. Especially timely for me as I relaunch and potentially invite guest bloggers to contribute to my in-site blog.

As you say, it’s important for FB page and other #socmed tool owners to have clear editorial guidelines for admins 7 team members, AND to also constantly monitor to ensure the guidelines are respected. Those slippery guideline slopes can turn into avalanches of inappropriate content if one is not diligent in keeping a watchful eye… (as you may have guessed, I speak from experience lol).

BTW, you have a word mix up in this line: For great insights on original the article and reactions to it, see:


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