Google is fixing rules for inviting guest speakers to its offices


Alphabet’s Google this week introduced rules for inviting guest speakers into its offices, days after it canceled a lecture by an Indian historian who discredited marginalized groups and their concerns, according to emails from the company reported by Reuters. seen.

The policy released Thursday is Google’s latest effort to maintain an open culture while addressing divisions that have arisen as its workforce grew.

Employees at Google and other major tech companies have clashed and protested over politics and racial and gender equality in recent years. Alphabet, Apple and Amazon also all have to deal with union organizations that demand that the companies pursue progressive policies.

The Google speaker rules, seen by Reuters, point to brand risks in certain conversations and ask employees to “consider whether there is a business reason to host the speaker and whether the event directly supports our business goals.”

It calls for avoiding topics that “may disrupt or undermine Google’s culture of connectedness” and reiterates that speakers should not advocate for political candidates and ballots.

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“We’ve always been proud to host external speakers at Google, as they provide great learning and connection opportunities for our employees,” Google spokesperson Ryan Lamont told Reuters. The updated process will “ensure that these events are useful and contribute to a productive work environment.”

An email introducing the policy to managers said it unifies and clarifies a patchwork of guidelines.

Increased oversight threatens the free-flowing, academic culture that Google has held so dear since its inception. But a workplace perceived as more inviting can attract a more diverse workforce, which could help Google develop products with broader appeal.

In recent years, internal disputes going public led Google to increase content moderation on workplace message boards and reduce the frequency of company-wide meetings.

Rivals like Meta also have policies for inviting speakers.

At Google, speakers included then-US presidential candidate Barack Obama, celebrity chef Ayesha Curry, and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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Riled up

Disputes over speakers have baffled Google since at least April, when it said internal rancor had prompted it to cancel a lecture on India’s socio-religious caste system by author Thenmozhi Soundararajan, who advocates for people disadvantaged by caste prejudice. Cancel.

Members of an internal Hindu group had complained about Soundararajan, describing her rhetoric as inflammatory, a charge she calls bigoted.

At least one of the critics suggested inviting Rajiv Malhotra for equilibrium, according to an internal message. Malhotra, a tech entrepreneur who describes himself as a contrarian author, has labeled activists such as Soundararajan as “snakes” and criticized affirmative action policies that promote lower caste groups.

The US Express News group at Google eventually scheduled Malhotra to speak on India’s positive impact on the world, according to an invitation. But organizers canceled Nov. 10, the day before the scheduled lecture at Google offices in Silicon Valley, according to a follow-up announcement.

Some workers complained to senior management about Malhotra, according to a notice requesting complaints. A linked document organized by Alphabet Workers Union, a labor organization that has asked Google to mention caste in its non-discrimination policy, noted that Malhotra had described homosexuality as a medical condition and Islam as a destructive force.

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Malhotra told Reuters he supports marginalized communities but opposes “politicization of bias in a way that divides societies and leaves them vulnerable to foreign colonization.”

Allowing his speech after Soundararajan’s cancellation would have been a contradictory benchmark, according to reports among employees.

The new speaker policy states that employees must “submit a proposal and have it approved” by an “umbrella” review team. Applications must be submitted no later than 12 weeks before an event.

“Wait for a response before contacting the speaker and/or their representative,” it says. “Failure to follow this process is a violation of Google’s policies.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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