Google CEO's Speech Was Canceled Due To Online Harassment Threats
Aug 13 2017 by Michele Stevens
The last-minute cancellation is the latest twist in a saga that began last Friday with a few tweets about a long memo by Damore which quickly became a publicity inferno, calling into question Google's focus on increasing the number of women, African-Americans and Hispanics in its technical and leadership ranks, as well as the company's commitment to free speech and the limits of internal debate. It began last weekend after engineer James Damore circulated a memo that claimed biological gender differences helped explain why women are underrepresented at the company. Some of the Google employees also identified as gay or supportive of diversity efforts. Other posts, seen in screenshots of Memegen that were shared with The New York Times by a Google employee, questioned why Google seemed to be taking cues from outsiders.
Management at the largest tech firms, including Google, have publicly committed to diversifying their workforces, although the percentage of women in engineering and management roles remains low at many companies. And needless to say, the issue isn't going away anytime soon.
Google said Damore violated its code of conduct and his actions advanced harmful gender stereotypes. But minutes before it was supposed to start, Pichai said in an email to Googlers it had been scotched due to concern about online harassment of employees whose names and questions were published on alt-right websites.
"We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward", Pichai said in a memo to employees on Thursday.
Dory is a system used internally for Google employees to submit and vote on questions to be asked at town hall meetings. A Blind survey found that a majority of employees at Google, Uber, Yahoo, Airbnb, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon thought that Damore should not have been fired.
Damore's op-ed follows interviews he gave earlier this week with Bloomberg News, as well as an independent broadcaster on YouTube.
Silicon Valley firms such as Airbnb are grappling with efforts to promote inclusion while banning users promoting extreme views
"Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and anxious they may be "outed" publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall", Pichai told employees, explaining his decision to cancel the all-hands meeting.
Damore's Twitter account has nearly 60,000 followers despite starting days ago.
Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The possible lawsuit will reportedly build on the US Department of Labor's probe into allegations of Google systematically underpaying its female staff.
Several conservative activists have criticized Damore's firing, and some groups have called for a Google boycott.
"I am a moderately conservative Googler", one employee wrote, "and I am and have been scared to share my beliefs". The memo sparked a heated debate; however, the firing of Damore for voicing his thoughts on the issue may have ignited an even bigger one.