Former and current employees with Google have accused the company of rolling back its diversity programs to sidestep potential criticism from conservatives, both inside and outside the company. According to NBC, Google has outright canceled a popular and intensive diversity training program called Sojourn. Sojourn sought to make employees aware of, and sensitive to, things like implicit bias and racial privilege.
"One of the major motivations for cutting Sojourn is that the company doesn’t want to be seen as anti-conservative," the employee said. "It does not want to invite lawsuits or claims by right-wing white employees about Google discriminating against them." Input has reached out to Google for comment.
Google's had near-constant tussles with accusations of political bias in recent years as the scale of its operations has continued to grow while representation in its hires hasn't by much. It also hasn't helped that U.S. politics has become increasingly partisan and the administration and its allies have actively sought opportunities to claim Big Tech skews democrat in its policies.
Conservatives have long complained — In 2019, while speaking on a Senate Judiciary subcommittee panel, several top Republicans like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee accused Facebook and Google of an anti-conservative bias. Accusations that were lambasted by Democrats like Senator Mazie Hirono.
Hirono said that the GOP members' claims were "nothing more than a mix of anecdotal evidence [...] and a failure to understand the companies algorithms and content moderation practices." Reuters reported she also warned, "We cannot allow the Republican party to harass tech companies into weakening content moderation policies that already fail to remove hateful, dangerous and misleading content."
What Google says — Tech and political bias is a controversial subject on Capitol Hill, replete with heated back and forth between conservatives and liberals who are increasingly divided. Google has consistently rejected claims of political bias, but then, of course it would. In 2019, as a response to the subcommittee, Google said that it was politically "neutral" though it conceded some of its systems inevitably made occasional errors that could appear to dispute that.
In response to this latest report, Google's chief diversity officer Melonie Parker denied the claims that the company was nixing diversity campaigns to appease conservatives. "We’re really maturing our programs to make sure we’re building our capability," Parker claimed. Sojourn no longer exists because the program didn't scale well to other markets outside the U.S.
This could be very well true. American-focused social programs may not translate to other markets, but this scalability explanation won't satisfy those who have seen Google's diversity report, which shows that its workforce continues to struggle to reflect the sort of diversity it once espoused.