Roughly 100 Google employees urged San Francisco Pride on Wednesday to remove their company from this weekend’s parade out of increasing frustration over its handling of hate speech.
In an open letter sent on Wednesday, the group urged Pride’s board of directors to revoke Google’s sponsorship of this year’s celebration and from having any representation. They say this comes after “countless hours” to improve policies and tackle harassment of LGBTQ people on the company’s products, namely YouTube.
“Whenever we press for change, we are told only that the company will ‘take a hard look at these policies,'” the letter read. “But we are never given a commitment to improve, and when we ask when these improvements will be made, we are always told to be patient. For a large company, perhaps waiting is prudent, but for those whose very right to exist is threatened, we say there is no time to waste, and we have waited too long, already.”
The attention to Google’s treatment of LGBTQ employees and consumers comes after Vox journalist and host of Strikethrough, Carlos Maza, detailed years-long harassment on YouTube in late May. Much of this has been egged on by conservative commentator Steven Crowder, who has called Maza a “lispy queer” and “gay Mexican” — Maza is Cuban American, according to Vox — and has been the subject of text messages that flooded the Vox host’s phone.
Days after Maza went public, the platform determined that Crowder hadn’t violated its policies then later suspended his channel’s monetization while keeping the videos up. Faced with the issue at the Code Conference earlier this month, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki acknowledged that it was “very hurtful to the LGBTQ community” but defended the decision.
Maza came forward with his account specifically to counter Google’s participation in Pride month despite its lack of protections for queer creators like himself.
“If you’re an LGBT creator, YouTube is using you,” Maza tweeted in early June. “They’re trotting you out to convince advertisers that their platform hasn’t become a breeding ground for hate speech and bigotry. YouTube does not give a fuck about protecting marginalized people, and it never has.”
Google employees considered protesting within the company’s parade contingent but say they were told it would violate their communications policy and company code of conduct. Google denied that criticizing the company in a personal capacity is not a violation and that employees are divided on the issue.
After the group submitted the letter, SF Pride defended Google as a “considerate partner” for years that has offered benefits to LGBTQ employees and has been an advocate for the community. In short, Google will remain in the parade.
“Google has marched in the San Francisco Pride Parade for more than a decade and we are excited to continue the tradition this weekend,” a spokesperson said. “We are grateful for SF Pride’s partnership and leadership.”
But the employees, like Maza, ultimately took a risk by publicly opposing the tech giant.
“We have considered the possibility that our employer will punish us for signing this letter, or that supporters of these very hatemongers will attack us personally, online or otherwise, simply for speaking out against them,” the letter read. “Despite these risks, we are compelled to speak.”