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Holding technology businesses accountable for Civil Rights promises

Laura Murphy


Laura Murphy, a leading civil rights advocate and a recipient of the Hubert H. Humphrey Civil and Human Rights Award led the civil rights audits for Facebook and Airbnb, and she knew that the moment was right to crystalize her approach.  Calls for accountability toward racial justice in the business sector were growing, with some two-thirds of the companies in the S&P 500 making various commitments to racial justice in 2020. 

With tremendous support from the civil rights community and partnership from the Ford Foundation and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Ms. Murphy authored and released an important report detailing the business case and standard methods for an effective business civil rights audit. The continued push for advancing racial equity requires the attention and commitment of business leaders. This groundbreaking report sets the stage for creating inclusive work environments that are in the best interests of people, businesses and our society as a whole. 

To develop these key principles, Murphy worked in close partnership with many advocates and organizations in the civil rights and technology justice space, including Color Of Change, NAACP, UnidosUS, the ACLU, Open MIC and more. The report and key principles set a gold standard for how to conduct civil rights audits to ensure that they are meaningful exercises with tangible results for protecting civil rights and mitigating harm. It also socializes audits and builds the business case for conducting them. Before this report, there had not been consensus on a set of principles that defined the criteria for effective and meaningful civil rights audits. Calling for civil rights audits is a key strategy that advocates are employing to pressure companies to follow through on their commitments.  

Spitfire was with Murphy every step of the way to ensure her important work got into the hands of the people who would do something with it. We coordinated the design and release of the report to great success. The report garnered attention throughout the tech field, particularly resonating with shareholder advocate groups as they established resolutions. When the news cycle broke toward revelations about a tech company the week of the planned release, we pivoted and kept on message.

The report gained far-reaching coverage in outlets such as Axios, Bloomberg and The Washington Post. Perhaps most importantly, immediately after the report’s release in 2021, State Street announced its commitment to undertaking a civil rights audit.

Spitfire partnered with Murphy as a Ford Technology and Society grantee.


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Issues Covered

Racial justice