Former Google Engineer: Google’s Claims Of No Partisan Bias Are Hogwash

Former Google Engineer: Google’s Claims Of No Partisan Bias Are Hogwash

A stark contrast exists between what Google CEO Sundar Pichai says from the top about his corporation’s bias, and what actually happens on the ground.
Mike Wacker
By

It truly must be surreal to learn from NBC and not from Google that Google is going to demonetize your publication. In their hit piece about The Federalist and ZeroHedge, NBC News obtained an official quote from a Google spokesperson claiming that “we’ve removed both sites’ ability to monetize with Google.” In a deleted tweet, the reporter who wrote that article thanked her left-wing sources for their “collaboration” in demonetizing The Federalist.

Once the inevitable backlash came, Google quickly started backtracking and shifting the goalposts, sounding like the kid who had just been caught with his hands in the cookie jar. As layer upon layer of absurdity piled up, Google even claimed that they punished The Federalist not for their articles, but for their comments.

Google receives a special immunity from Congress saying that it’s not liable for YouTube videos and comments—an immunity that many in both political parties want to take away—so of course, it decided to argue that The Federalist should be held liable for readers’ comments.

Instead of telling Christians that the Bible is inappropriate for advertising on YouTube, perhaps Google could open up the Bible for once and read the parable of the unmerciful servant before it tries to hold yet another conservative website liable for things Google gets away with.

Whatever their explanation was, one also has to wonder if Google is even telling the truth. After all, Google CEO Sundar Pichai once told Congress, “We don’t manually intervene on any particular search result,” only for story after story and story to come out and prove this was false. One blacklist for Google search, which ensnared the Conservative Tribune, the American Spectator, and Matt Walsh, was even approved by an executive who reports directly to Sundar.

You could also argue that Sundar lied when he told Congress, “I lead this company without political bias.” Not the part where he claims a lack of political bias (although who knows for sure), but the part where he claims to lead the company. When Google can’t even stand up to an outrage mob against Kay Coles James, the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, it’s clear that left-wing activists are running the company, not Pichai or his executives.

Some would argue that the best solution to this problem is for conservative employees within the company to speak up more, rather than to try and fix Google from the outside. As someone who once worked at Google, I know full well how you can endanger your career just by speaking up. When you can get reported to HR for the mere thought-crime of sharing a National Review article, even the most vanilla statements force you to contemplate that blurry line between courage and career suicide.

To make matters worse, these activists exist not just among the rank-and-file employees, but also within the human resources (HR) department. If a complaint against you lands on the desk of an activist in HR, you’re screwed.

For example, on one occasion, an employee accused me of being “rude, disrespectful, and intellectually dishonest,” then shortly after that, he doubled down on his past comments referring to Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn, as a terrorist. In the theater of the absurd known as Google, I was the one who got in trouble with HR.

But don’t worry. If things get really bad, such as that time Google employees openly discussed manipulating search results to counter President Trump’s travel ban, then I’m sure Sundar will send another toothless but sternly worded email telling employees to stay nonpartisan. If he ever needs a new gig, Sundar could probably get a job at the United Nations writing harshly worded resolutions.

In Google’s official book about itself, “How Google Works,” Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg wrote, “You cannot be gender-, race-, and color-blind by fiat; you need to create empirical, objective methods to measure people.” At political blindness, though, Pichai seems to be convinced that he can just declare by fiat that Google is nonpartisan—even though he essentially has no data to prove it—and he just expects people to trust him, even though he can’t be trusted to tell the truth before Congress.

A stark contrast exists between what Sundar says from the top and what actually happens on the ground. For example, if a manager told an employee that Google needs to stop what the left considers fake news and hate speech because that’s how Trump won—something that has happened in the past—I cannot rule out the possibility that HR would take the manager’s side. When that outrage mob against James took place, a contingent within HR actively sided with the outrage mob, even as the mob’s behavior started spiraling out of control.

In emails that were leaked to Breitbart, one employee even compared appointing James, an African-American grandmother, to appointing the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. What’s even more disturbing is that the record shows that nobody objected to that statement.

In “How Google Works,” Schmidt and Rosenberg wrote, “For a meritocracy to work, it needs to engender a culture where there is an ‘obligation to dissent.’“ If you want a sign of how toxic Google’s culture has become⁠, and how it has been transformed from a meritocracy to a perverse aristocracy, then look no further than the time when Kay Coles James was compared to the Grand Wizard of the KKK, and nobody dissented.

Mike Wacker is a former software engineer for Google and one of the Lincoln Network’s 2020 Policy Hackers fellows. Follow him on Twitter @m_wacker.

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