San Francisco’s Pride parade is at the end of June but if Google employees want to protest their employer they are barred from doing so if they are marching officially with the company. Reasons they might want to protest? YouTube, owned by Google, spent much of June embroiled in a scandal surrounding the harassment of a queer creator. After years of being called things like “lispy queer” and “anchor baby” by right-wing commentator Steven Crowder, Vox host Carlos Maza posted a compilation video of some of the abuse. YouTube’s initial response was that while it did not endorse Crowder’s words, they did not violate Terms of Service and could remain on the platform. Later, the company doubled back and demonetized Crowder’s channel.
Which, for clear reasons, didn’t leave a great taste in the mouths of many members of the LGBTQ+ community. Including some working for YouTube and Google. (Google’s CEO recently sent an open letter to LGBTQ+ employees promising to address concerns about harassment.) An internal memo, first reported by the Verge, was sent to members of the “Gaygler” listserv reminding employees of conduct rules for Pride. “Employees are free to make whatever statement they want personally, apart from our corporate sponsored float/contingent,” the memo said. “But they are not permitted to leverage our platform to express a message contradictory to the one Google is expressing.” (This means Google employees are free to protest while marching with other groups, but as the event is only days away, there’s little time to find alternatives.)
As for punishment for violating this policy, one Googler tweeted “when asked what consequences there would be if we did protest we were told … ‘employees will need to contact individually Code of Conduct team (email redacted) for any further questions on this.’” No other details were provided.
“We prohibit retaliation in the workplace, and investigate all allegations. Employees and teams are regularly and commonly given new assignments, or reorganized, to keep pace with evolving business needs. There has been no retaliation here,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement provided to New York.
2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City, an event that catalyzed the gay-rights movement throughout the country. In honor of the event, the LGBT Community Center of New York City created a tribute called “Stonewall Forever,” a “living monument” to a half-century of Pride. Google partnered with the Center and kicked in $1.5 million to back it, which you can read about in a lengthy press release from Google that ends with the line “Pride is forever.” Apparently it’s been such a long time that Google has entirely forgotten about the kind of Pride that got us here in the first place: the kind of disobedient bravery and unwillingness to accept edict that eventually made it safe — or at least safer — for the hundreds of thousands of people who will march in San Francisco this weekend, many of them marching in that same protest spirit from 50 years ago. That’s Pride and that is forever, Google.