Far-right news website Breitbart on Wednesday posted a leaked video showing Google executives sharing with employees how troubled they were by the election of US President Donald Trump.
The leak of the hour-long video from a TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) town hall style gathering shortly after Trump won office in November of 2016 came as the president and his allies accuse the leading search engine of bias against politically conservative viewpoints.
“I know this is probably not the most joyous TGIF we have had,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said in the video.
“As an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive. I know many of you do, too.” Brin said most people at the meeting were upset and saddened by an election outcome that indicated many people in the US don’t share the values of those at Google when it came to immigrants, minorities, women, and the world being left to children.
Google’s Indian-origin chief executive Sundar Pichai also addressed the gathering, saying that while the election was rife with rhetoric and division, people should have faith in the democratic process.
Pichai said he thought one of the reasons for the election outcome was that “people don’t feel heard on either side.” “There is a lot of fear. It is important to reach out,” Pichai said.
Google executives urged employees to remain true to their values, and trust that the internet can make lives better for people around the world, despite its flaws.
Google told AFP that for more than 20 years employees have been free to express personal viewpoints at all-hands get-togethers such as the one in the video.
“Nothing was said in that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products,” Google said in response to an AFP inquiry.
“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.” Google and other major US internet firms are facing intense scrutiny for allowing the propagation of misinformation and hate speech, and allegations of political bias from the president and some Republican lawmakers.
In a series of recent tweets, Trump assailed Google for what he termed “rigged” results that hide news from conservative outlets and promote content from what he called “left-wing” media.
That followed similar comments from Republican lawmakers including House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, who claimed that “conservatives are too often finding their voices silenced” on online platforms.
Technology and media analysts say there is little evidence to suggest Google is skewing results for political reasons. And if they did, the president would have little recourse under the constitution’s free-speech protections.
But public perception is another matter.
A Pew Research Center survey released in June found 43 percent of Americans think major technology firms support the views of liberals over conservatives, and 72 percent accepted the idea that social media platforms actively censor opposing political views.