December 15, 2008

Should You Racialize the Internet for Social Change and Community?

Mozilla has launched Blackbird, a web browser created for African-Americans. The browser filters searches, networks, and websites to bring African-American related content and acts as a network for African-Americans to connect and highlight African-American charities.

My gut reaction is that this browser is created to make money for advertisers. African-Americans are projected to have over $1 trillion in purchasing power by 2012 so anyone who can get this groups attention will certainly see profits. Additionally for the 85% of African-American web users who prefer African-American related content this browser does all of the filtering and searching that they may not have the time or savvy to do.

At the same time, if we recognize that the Internet has revolutionized how we learn and interact with the world around us there is something unsettling about limiting content to solely focus on an ethnic group. And who gets the privilege of selecting what exactly is African-American content? What if I am interested in something that doesn't have a high African-American following or focus, will that info not be shown?

The only aspect of this browser that stands out is its Give Back function (coming soon) which will provide greater visibility for African-American community based organizations. But couldn't that have been a website instead of a browser? And wouldn't it help to have the visibility of African-American charities grow among all groups of people?

The goal of building community and social change seem lost by having a separate browser since change is not possible in isolation.

What are your thoughts?


This post was written by Allison Jones, a development and communications professional in New York City and volunteer blogger with the Literacy 'n' Poverty Project. She is a writer, advocate, and educator focusing on empowering young people to change the world. Please leave your comments or email ajlovesya@gmail.com.

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