Metro Weekly

Google’s own employees want San Francisco Pride to ban the company from participating

Search giant under fire from employees for allegedly failing to implement pro-LGBTQ policies and practices

Photo: Google

Search giant Google is facing a mini-coup over its participation in San Francisco Pride 2019.

Some of the company’s employees are petitioning SF Pride’s board of directors, asking them to revoke Google’s sponsorship and prevent them from participating in the June 30 Pride Parade, Engadget reports.

In the petition, posted to Medium, the employees claim that their repeated attempts to get Google to implement more pro-LGBTQ policies and practices have been met with generic responses and requests for patience.

In particular, the employees highlighted Google’s recent refusal to pull anti-LGBTQ content on YouTube, as well as the company’s lengthy delay in removing a pro-conversion therapy app from its Android app store, months after tech rivals Apple and Microsoft deleted the app.

“We do not make this request without serious consideration of the alternatives,” they write. “We have spent countless hours advocating for our company to improve policies and practices regarding the treatment of LGBTQ+ persons, the depiction of LGBTQ+ persons, and harassment and hate speech directed at LGBTQ+ persons, on YouTube and other Google products.

“Whenever we press for change, we are told only that the company will ‘take a hard look at these policies,'” they continue. “But we are never given a commitment to improve, and when we ask when these improvements will be made, we are always told to be patient.”

Noting that they are “told to wait,” the employees write that “for a large company, perhaps waiting is prudent,” but for LGBTQ people “whose very right to exist is threatened, we say there is no time to waste, and we have waited too long, already. We are no longer content to wait.”

The petition also references Google allegedly banning its employees from protesting near YouTube’s float in Sunday’s Parade.

Google reportedly barred employees from protesting YouTube while marching with the company, telling them they could only do so in their personal capacity, away from the company float.

In the petition, the employees claim that they tried to propose a compromise, “to protest from within the contingent, allowing employees to express their disagreement with the company’s position, from the parade.”

“But Google has now informed us that this is a violation of our communications policy, a part of the company code of conduct,” they write. “They claim the contingent is their official representation, and we may not use their platform to express an opinion that is not their opinion. In short, they rejected any compromise.”

The employees are urging San Francisco Pride to “reject Google’s failure to act” by revoking their sponsorship, excluding the company from the parade, and saying that Pride should not provide YouTube in particular “a platform that paints it in a rainbow veneer of support.”

“We ask you to join us in resisting LGBTQ+ oppression on the internet, and the subjugation of our right to equality in favor of calculated business concerns,” they write. “The first Pride was a protest, and so now must this Pride be one.”

Google has refrained from officially commenting on the petition, though the company told Engadget that some employees are reportedly circulating a counter-petition in support of the company’s presence at Pride.

San Francisco Pride issued a statement saying that Google and YouTube “can and must do more to elevate and protect the voices of LGBTQ+ creators on their platforms,” but that it would not be banning either from the parade.

“Google has been a considerate partner of SF Pride for a number of years, and has historically been a strong ally to LGBTQ+ communities,” SF Pride said. “Google has long offered substantial benefits to their same-sex couple and transgender employees, and shown valuable public advocacy, opposing unfair legislation targeting LGBTQ communities, particularly trans individuals.

“As we commemorate the roots of our movement in resistance, we also understand that San Francisco Pride has become synonymous with the values of inclusion and acceptance. In the spirit of community and growth, we confirm Google as a continued participant in the 2019 SF Pride Parade. Together as a community we will continue our progress, and together we will protect our hard-won civil rights victories.”

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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