Heads at pride parade

Google warns employees against Pride parade protests

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According to The Verge, Google has distributed a memo among its employees warning them not to voice any protest against the company’s policies at the annual Pride parade.

Google has come under renewed criticism over its treatment of LGBT+ people on YouTube and in other areas of its business. Since 2017, LGBT+ creators have accused YouTube of having automatically filtered, demoted, age-restricted or demonetised videos discussing LGBT+ issues. For instance, creator Chase Ross – who makes educational videos about transitioning – has criticised YouTube for demonetising videos which feature terms like ‘trans’ or ‘transgender’ in their titles and for placing anti-LGBT+ adverts in front of his videos.

This month, YouTube declined to remove the YouTube account of Steven Crowder, who had used racist and homophobic slurs to persistently bully Vox journalist Carlos Maza. Maza said that Crowder’s fans had harrassed and doxxed (broadcasting private or identifiable information about an individual) him as a result of the videos. Furious reaction to the decision forced YouTube CEO Susan Wojckicki and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to apologise and demonetised Crowder’s account.

Meanwhile, Google has also donated to US lawmakers with histories of voting against LGBT+ rights and protections, including Texas Representative Mike Conaway and North Carolina Representative Virginia Foxx.

Given these decisions, an LGBT+ group of Google employees (the Gayglers) discussed sending a petition to the organisers of San Francisco Pride to remove the Google float from this year’s Pride parade and used a board meeting to ask that the company is removed from the parade. Some planned to march alongside the float, protesting Google’s failures to protect LGBT+ people with signs and t-shirts.

When one employee asked if this would be acceptable to the company, an inclusion lead said that this would be forbidden, according to information acquired by The Verge. In a memo sent to employees, the company allegedly said that any workers attending the Parade as a company representative and who protest against Google would be considered in violation of the company code of conduct. It is unclear how employees would be punished for breaking the code of conduct in this way.

Employees would be permitted to protest in a personal capacity: “Employees are free to make whatever statement they want personally, apart from our corporate sponsored float/contingent,” the memo said, “but they are not permitted to leverage our platform to express a message contradictory to the one Google is expressing.”

According to Bloomberg, it is possible that punishing employees for protesting Google’s stance on LGBT+ rights would violate laws protecting activism in the workplace.

Google has made efforts to rebuild its reputation as an inclusive company, including by donating $1.5m (£1.2m) to the LGBT Community Center of New York City to build a ‘living monument’ to commemorate the Stonewall riots and launching a video advertisement for its ‘kiss detection’ feature, which includes a same-sex couple.

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