Over the weekend, an internal memo written by a male software engineer for Google entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” went viral, prompting the tech powerhouse to put out a statement in response.
The 10-page document, dubbed the “anti-diversity memo” by some, describes the employee’s view of Google’s political and moral biases, approach to diversity, and proposes some suggestions for how to deal with the company’s “ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.”
“If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem,” says the software engineer’s memo. “Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology. What follows is by no means the complete story, but it’s a perspective that desperately needs to be told at Google.”
The writer then listed what he saw as Google’s biases, namely a bias favoring the political left and an attempt to foster diversity in race and sex, while ignoring the greater need for ideological diversity.
However, the section of the memo that garnered the most controversy discussed the gender gap in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field. The section argues that the gap is a result of natural, biological and psychological differences between men and women.
“Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership,” argues the memo’s author. “Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”
The employee also discussed what he views as Google’s political bias favoring the liberalism, claiming that “Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies.”
The author lists examples of such policies, including the creation of “programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race” and a “high priority queue and special treatment for ‘diversity” candidates.” He argues that hiring practices based upon gender or race can often lower the bar, institutionalizing a new sort of discrimination or affirmative action in hiring.
The software engineer also offers suggestions to the company for how to deal with the issues he described, including that Google “be open about the science of human nature, stop alienating conservatives, confront Google’s biases, stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races, [and] have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs.”
After the memo was first shared to some in the company on an internal mailing list, it went internally viral and was later published in full by Gizmodo. On Saturday evening, in the response to the memo, Google’s new “VP of diversity, integrity, and governance” put out a statement.
“Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google,” read the statement. “And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.”
“Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a company wide OKR [objectives and key results] on diversity and inclusion. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.”
The memo's author has responded to the backlash in a statement saying that he does, indeed, support diversity, inclusion and gender equality, but felt a need to speak out against what he views as a corporate culture that is intolerant of any non-liberal free speech. He says that he has received "many personal messages from Googlers expressing their gratitude" - but, who were too afraid of being fired to speak up themselves.
This controversy comes at a time when the company is in the midst of a debate over free speech and expression on its platform. Last week, Google’s video-sharing platform, YouTube, released new guidelines concerning “controversial content.”
“If we find that these videos don’t violate our policies but contain controversial religious or supremacist content, they will be placed in a limited state,” said the website’s blog. “The videos will remain on YouTube behind an interstitial, won’t be recommended, won’t be monetized, and won’t have key features including comments, suggested videos, and likes.”