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The leaked Google video that's riling conservatives

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It's an unhappy time at Google. Ever since the James Damore controversy last year, Google has faced r
 
September 12 · Issue #204 · View online
The Interface
It’s an unhappy time at Google.
Ever since the James Damore controversy last year, Google has faced regular eruptions from unhappy employees who wish to protest the company’s politics in public. In January, a former security engineer said he had been stopped from sharing his pro-diversity views. This summer, a group of employees successfully pressured the company to stop building an AI project for the military. A similar group is now pushing to prevent the company from re-entering China.
All of this has played out in unusually public ways — and against a political backdrop that has grown increasingly unfriendly to Google and its parent company, Alphabet. President Trump has repeatedly tweeted baseless allegations that the company is biased against conservatives. Lawmakers have conducted hearings that seem designed primarily to embarrass Google and its tech-giant peers.
On Wednesday, amid reports that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might open antitrust and consumer-protection law investigations against the tech companies, someone at Google handed him a gift: an hourlong video of Google’s first all-hands meeting after the 2016 US presidential election, in which crestfallen executives attempt to console the employees they’re addressing.
The video has apparently been floating around for half a year; The New York Times’ Jack Nicas referred to it in an article from March. Now Breitbart has posted the entire meeting, known internally as TGIF, for everyone to watch.
I know what you’re thinking: Finally, a chance to revisit the 2016 election!
The video turns out to be less damning than Breitbart’s breathless framing — and almost comically in-depth notations — might suggest. Meetings like this took place at many, many companies in the days after the November election, as progressives, people of color, LGBT folks, and other marginalized communities came to grips with what a Trump administration might mean for them and their families and loved ones. These concerns were … not unfounded! Executives everywhere felt compelled to reassure employees that they understood their fears and would do their best to support them.
And, of course, some of them — including immigrants, like Google cofounder Sergey Brin — themselves were disappointed by the news.
“Most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad,” Brin says as the meeting begins. “I find this election deeply offensive, and I know many of you do too. It’s a stressful time, and it conflicts with many of our values. I think it’s a good time to reflect on that. … So many people apparently don’t share the values that we have.”
At the same time, executives do not directly criticize Trump, or suggest that their political beliefs will manifest in changes to the company’s products or services.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai tells the audience that many employees had emailed him saying they were afraid of the consequences of a Trump administration. He encourages them to speak up, reach out to political opponents, and embrace the democratic process.
“It was a fair and democratic process, and we honor that,” says Kent Walker, who leads Google’s legal and policy team.
In a statement to Buzzfeed, Google notes that the company encourages people to share their views. “For over 20 years, everyone at Google has been able to freely express their opinions at these meetings,“ the company said. "Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. To the contrary, our products are built for everyone, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint.”
I believe this to be true, though I’m not sure it will matter. Conservative organizations were quick to call the video "a smoking gun.” I expect that lawmakers will quote from it in future hearings. And even if the individual links in the chain of evidence suggesting Google is “biased” are little more than a string of accidents, endless repetition by the right-wing noise machine still could shape it into a powerful narrative.
I view the video as more of a time capsule. It’s no secret that groups of Google employees have opposed the Trump agenda, particularly as it relates to immigration. If anything, the video captures a time that Googlers were more unified. That one of them leaked it to Breitbart — surely knowing full well what would follow — offers yet more evidence that that time has passed.

Democracy
EU Copyright Directive vote: Articles 11 and 13 approved
Wikimedia calls EU copyright directive “a missed opportunity”
Trump OKs sanctions for foreigners who meddle in elections
Big Tech Companies to Appear Before Senate to Discuss Privacy
How Game Apps That Captivate Kids Have Been Collecting Their Data
Nearly 600 Russia-Linked Accounts Tweeted About the Health Law
Elsewhere
Reddit has banned the QAnon conspiracy subreddit r/GreatAwakening
Instagram COO Marne Levine is headed back to Facebook to become one of its top executives
Snapchat shares hit all-time low as search acquisition Vurb’s CEO bails
A Peddler of Fake Reviews on TripAdvisor Gets Jail Time
Some Students Want to Abolish In-Class Presentations
Apple iPhone event 2018: the biggest announcements
Launches
Instagram will send a pop-up about opioid addiction support if you search certain hashtags
Takes
The Metamorphosis of Silicon Valley C.E.O.s: From Big to Boring
Apple’s iPhone Event, Facebook Fact-Checking, Vimeo Pivots Again [$]
And finally ...
Y'all already know I think that email is the future of media. Could it be the future of Apple events as well?
Louis Virtel
Apple Events are the world's largest meetings that could've been an email.
10:11 AM - 12 Sep 2018
Talk to me
Send me tips, questions, corrections, and an Apple Watch Series 4: casey@theverge.com.
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