WIRED spoke with 47 current and former Google employees and put together a groundbreaking report on the hardships and obstacles the company has been facing since the 2016 election. The article presents us with an amazing amount of information that condemns Google’s internal practices in relation to the privacy of their employees, shining a light on the reality that not everyone working at the Silicon Valley tech giant abides to the integrity rules. Readers will learn about the “period of growing distrust and disillusionment inside Google that echoed the fury roaring outside the company’s walls,” reflecting the rapid growth of conservative right-wing politics we have been witnessing over the past few years.
Google hosts many meetings with their employees that are specifically designed for them to openly discuss and oftentimes challenge executive decisions. It was in one of those meetings that James Damore heard about the idea of providing more job interviews and a more welcoming environment to female and underrepresented minority candidates that did not form a high percentage in the company’s demographics. For many people, including Damore, this idea went against its said purpose of inclusion and Google’s meritocratic hiring process, therefore ‘lowering the bar’ on hiring and showing discrimination toward men. He proceeded to write what later became a famous 10-page memo elaborating on his anti-diversity reasoning. After much pressure from other employees, executives decided to fire him due to his blatant attack on the company’s core principles.
The firing of Damore caused a huge commotion inside the company among conservatives that did not agree with the decision, and who decided to attack their co-workers by leaking information from Google’s hundreds of discussion forums. On a pro-Trump subreddit, a collage appeared that showed the full names, profile pictures, and Twitter bios of eight Google employees, most of them queer, transgender, or people of color. Each bio featured phrases that would make the employees instant targets for harassment: “polyamorous queer autistic trans lesbian” and “just another gay communist site reliability engineer.” Days after Damore was fired, a former tech editor at Breitbart shared the Reddit collage image with 2 million Facebook followers. “Look at who works for Google, it all makes sense now,” he wrote, as if these eight employees had been the ones who made the decision to fire Damore.
There have been many other instances in which Googlers were being named personally and started being publicly attacked for things they said in private company forums. The situation only got worse when it became clear that leakers were protected from being prosecuted by “protected concerted activity” and would not suffer any consequences even if they were discovered. The article was extremely interesting to read since it provided information about the inner workings of a tech giant and how typical principles of freedom of expression and Google’s famous “obligation to dissent” concept turned against them when they started being attacked from the inside. The company has been fighting a dirty war on the issue of diversity since the 2016 election. As WIRED wrote, “Googlers on both sides of the battle lines had become adept at working the refs—baiting colleagues into saying things that might violate the company’s code of conduct, then going to human resources to report them. But Googlers on the right were going further, broadcasting snippets of the company’s uncensored brawls to the world, and setting up their colleagues for harassment.”