Google CEO Sundar Pichai cancelled a companywide town hall style meeting scheduled for Thursday amid employees’ fear of harassment primarily thanks to alt-right websites.
The conversation was supposed to address gender issues following the highly publicized diatribe “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” written by former Google engineer James Damore, which suggested biological differences between men and women make the latter less suited for leadership or technical roles in the workplace. Google fired Damore as a result of his leaked memo.
To readDamore‘sfull memoclick here.
James Damore, who said in an interview he feels “betrayed” by the tech giant, also filed a complaint against his former employer.
Pichai announced the cancellation a half hour before the meeting was set to begin, according to media outlets.
“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai wrote to his 60,000 employees. “But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally. Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.”
Pichai had been on vacation in Africa when Damore’s memo went public. He returned early to address the controversy.
CEO Sundar Pichai said “much of what was in” misogynistic memo from engineer “is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority disagree,” but said language “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” was “not OK.” The employee reportedly has been fired.
“Over the past two days, I have had the chance to meet with so many people here, and I have read each of your emails carefully,” he wrote. “The vast majority of you are very supportive of our decision. A smaller percentage of you wish we would do more. And some are worried that you cannot speak out at work freely. All of your voices and opinions matter … and I want to hear them.”
But, according to Recode, “Sources inside Google said some employees had begun to experience ‘doxxing’ online harassment that can take various forms and is defined as ‘searching for and publishing private or identifying information about [a particular individual] on the internet, typically with malicious intent.'”
Much of the harassment appeared to target employees who disagreed with Damore’s memo.
Names of Googlers, along with questions they had planned to ask and comments on the memo in general, were publicized primarily on alt-right websites. Alt-right commentator and former Breitbart News writer Milo Yiannopoulos posted names, photos and Twitter bios of eight Google employees on his Facebook page.
“Looking at who works for Google, it all makes sense now…,” Yiannopoulos wrote.
After attending one of Google’s diversity programs James Damore said in an interview with a conservative YouTube channel, “There’s just so much hypocrisy in the things they are saying.”
Alt-right commentators also slammed some Googlers for blacklisting employees who do not support diversity initiatives. Breitbart posted screenshots reportedly obtained from an internal Google+ network, Internal Plus. Some comments go back as far as 2015.
And, according to The Verge, “On Tuesday, a 4chan-related Twitter account posted screenshots of fourteen Twitter profiles of Google employees, ranging from rank-and-file engineers to Sundar Pichai himself. Every Googler targeted was either a woman, trans man, or a man of color. This tweet may not have been the origin point of this list of Googlers, but it was spread widely.”
Screenshots posted on the alt-right blog Vox Day showed some Google employees raising questions addressed to senior leaders.
One employee questioned “our organization, our leadership, and our company” on what role Damore would play in the company in the future (the screenshot was dated Aug. 5, before Damore was fired):
“Does the author sit on hiring committees Does the author perform interviews The author clearly will bring their bigotry to their evaluation of candidates. How many candidates have we lost because of this How many more because those candidates spread the word
Does the author sit on promotion committees The author can and will deliberately impede the recognition and progress of Googlers already short-changed by the bias inherent in our system. This directly undermines the inclusive environment we claim we need.”
“Going forward, I cannot and I will not work with James Damore,” the employee concluded.
Top leaders at the company demonstrated their own worst practices by hiding behind a statement from their brand new head of diversity, who has only been on the job for a couple of weeks.
On Google’s end, Pichai told employees that the discussions will take place at another time.
“In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion,” he wrote. “So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely. We’ll share details soon.”
Meanwhile, a protest against Google is scheduled for Aug. 19. The #MarchOnGoogle is so far slated to take place outside five Google locations: Mountain View, Calif., where the tech giant is headquartered; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Austin; and Boston.
Organizers of the protest believe Google is infringing on rights to free speech, according to the March On Google website, which describes the company as “an anti-free speech monopoly.”