Google employees have written to the organizers of the San Francisco Pride parade requesting that their employer be barred from representation in the parade as well as revoking Google’s sponsorship of Pride 2019. So far, 129 Google employees have signed the letter, which was also posted online. The crux of the matter, the employees say, is Google only pays lip service to LGBTQ+ persons and doesn’t take any real action when those persons are subjected to hate speech and harassment on Google’s platforms. From the letter:
We do not make this request without serious consideration of the alternatives. 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.” 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.
Though the letter does not specifically refer to the incident, earlier this month Google-owned YouTube faced intense criticism after it failed to act on information that a YouTube content creator had been using his YouTube channel to engage in a long-running homophobic harassment campaign against Vox’s Carlos Maza. Responding to Maza’s complaint, YouTube said the homophobic harassment did not violate its harassment rules.
The signers of the letter to San Francisco Pride say they have considered the possibility that Google will punish them for their request that Google is excluded from the Pride parade as Google has told them that in doing so, they violated the company’s communications policy. Despite this, the signatories say they are compelled to speak:
We feel we have no choice but to urge you to reject Google’s failure to act in support of our community by revoking their sponsorship of Pride, and excluding Google from official representation in the Pride parade. If another official platform, YouTube, allows abuse and hate and discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons, then Pride must not provide the company a platform that paints it in a rainbow veneer of support for those very persons. On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, in a Pride celebration whose very slogan is “Generations of Resistance”, 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. The first Pride was a protest, and so now must this Pride be one.
The San Francisco Pride parade takes place on June 30, 2019. We’ve reached out to both Google and SF Pride and will update this post with any information we receive from them.
Update: San Fransisco Pride has issued the following statement on the matter:
San Francisco Pride encourages open and respectful dialogue. We appreciate the engagement of community members who reached out to San Francisco Pride with their concerns about Google. Google and YouTube can and must do more to elevate and protect the voices of LGBTQ+ creators on their platforms, and we’ve found that Google has been willing to listen to this criticism and is working to develop appropriate policies. They have acknowledged they have much work to do to promote respectful discussion and exchange of ideas.
Google has been a considerate partner of SF Pride for a number of years, and has historically been a strong ally to LGBTQ+ communities. 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.
A Google spokesperson has also told us this:
Google has marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade for more than a decade and we are excited to continue the tradition this weekend. We are grateful for SF Pride’s partnership and leadership.