By Dan Calabrese
Google is absolutely, positively, without question, beyond a shadow of a doubt, not biased.
But just in case, its CEO Sundar Pichai figured he had better make sure Google’s employees know that. I mean, when you watch videos of Google executives indulging in a cry-fest following the election of Donald Trump, you might get the impression that Google leans a tad to the left. When you hear about conservative Google employee James Damore getting fired for daring to question left-wing orthodoxy in a memo concerning company policies, you might start to wonder if there isn’t a thumb on the scales just the tiniest bit.
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So Pichai last week sent around a companywide memo asserting that Google intends to be strictly nonpartisan, and reminding employees that this means them:
The missive comes after a series of internal discussions by Google employees—appearing to show them reacting negatively to President Trump and his policies—were leaked to the public. Those disclosures fueled concerns the company’s search results favor liberal views over conservative ones, and follow previous calls from lawmakers to study whether search results are biased.
An email chain from January 2017, days after the Trump administration instituted a controversial travel ban, showed Google employees discussing how they might be able to tweak the company’s search functions to show users how to contribute to pro-immigration organizations and contact lawmakers and government agencies, according to internal company emails.
“Recent news stories reference an internal email to suggest that we would compromise the integrity of our search results for a political end,” Mr. Pichai said to employees. “This is absolutely false.”
Google said none of the suggested changes to search were implemented. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on whether any employees have been disciplined because of the disclosures.
Conservatives also recently expressed anger after Breitbart News released a video of a 2016 company meeting in which Google senior managers lamented Mr. Trump’s election victory. Google said the comments from executives in the video expressed the personal beliefs of those executives, not the company’s.
In his memo, Mr. Pichai said, “Google itself is and must continue to be non-partisan.”
Let’s say for the sake of discussion that Pichai actually means this. There is good reason to think he should, since it’s much better for Google’s business if people believe it directs its searches and other activities in straight-down-the-line fashion. It would make Google more widely trusted and more broadly respected. That’s better for business any way you look at it.
The problem, however, is that when the CEO tells the employees “play it straight,” and the employees are almost all left-wingers, they’re going to apply their own interpretation to what playing it straight means. Remember, this is the same company that was set to assist the Pentagon with drone technology, only to back off from doing so because its own left-wing employees couldn’t stand the idea that their company might help America win a war.
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That’s the culture into which Pichai is sending out this directive. Do Google employees even know what it means not to be partisan? Do the Google employees who wrang their hands and tore their clothes over Trump’s election even know how to set standards that would define it?
You can send out all the directives you want, but if you’re directing people who don’t even know what it means to be even-handed, it’s not going to do much good. I’m glad Pichai has publicly stated this is Google’s policy. Now let’s see Google actually make it happen in a meaningful way.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!
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