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Google tells employees they can’t protest YouTube’s LGBTQ+ policies



Google employees planning on marching with the company at this weekend’s San Francisco Pride parade have been warned that protesting against YouTube’s LGBTQ+ policies would be a violation of company policy.

The confirmation of Google’s stance towards employee protests at Pride was first reported by The Verge and came by way of an email exchange between a leader of the Gayglers, an internal LGBTQ+ employee group, and the company’s Global LGBTQ+ Community Inclusion Lead. When the employee asked if they could be apart of Google’s contingent, while also protesting YouTube’s recent policy decisions, the inclusion lead said that doing so would violate the company’s communications policy.

Frustration with the company’s LGBTQ+ policy erupted earlier this month when the company decided that homophobic and racial slurs about a Vox journalist in a video posted by conservative commentator Steven Crowder did not violate YouTube’s terms of service. Crowder — who has 3.8 million subscribers — frequently refers to the sexuality and ethnicity of Vox journalist Carlos Maza on his show, using phrases like “lispy queer” and a “gay Latino” to describe the journalist. YouTube eventually suspended Crowder’s ability to make money from his videos, but decided that the videos could remain on the site.

Google has scrambled to contain the fallout following the controversial Crowder video incident, with CEO Sundar Pichai stating in an email to LGBTQ employees that YouTube’s management was “taking a hard look” at harassment policies.

Read more: YouTube’s week from hell: How the debate over free speech online exploded after a conservative star with millions of subscribers was accused of homophobic harassment

A Google spokesperson confirmed with Business Insider on Monday that employees would be in violation of its corporate policy if they were to protest the company while marching alongside its float. The spokesperson said employees were free to protest however they wish if they attend the parade with a group other than Google’s or if they show up in their own “personal capacity.”

‘Because you’re representing the company, you can’t be protesting the company at the same time.’

A current employee who spoke to Business Insider said that because one must be affiliated with a particular group, or contingent, to march in the parade, Google’s restriction is a meaningful one.

When asked which part of the company’s policy protesting employees would be in violation of, the spokesperson told Business Insider: “Because you’re representing the company, you can’t be protesting the company at the same time.”

An email was sent to all Google employees on Monday by the Gaygler group leader to notify them of the company’s position. In part of the email obtained by Business Insider, the employee wrote: “If you are marching with a Google sponsored float you are representing the company and the statement the company is making (i.e. it supports LGBTQ+ Rights, Price, etc.). Employees are free to make whatever statement they want personally, apart from our corporate sponsored float/contingent, but they are not permitted to leverage our platform to express a message contradictory to the one Google is expressing.”

In terms of how employees would be punished should they decide to protest this weekend as part of Google’s contingent, the inclusion lead said that employees would need to follow up with the team responsible for enforcing the Code of Conduct, according to the current employee who spoke to Business Insider.

A second current employee told Business Insider that the potential consequences of violating the communications policy could potentially follow a few steps: first a verbal warning, then signing a formal complaint, and finally, a clear statement that they would be terminated should they continue to violate the policy in the same way.

That employee said on Monday that because Google had already made itself clear about protest restrictions at San Francisco’s Pride parade, any violators would likely “jump faster along that escalation.”

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (209) 730-3387 using a non-work phone, email at [email protected], Telegram at nickbastone, or Twitter DM at@nickbastone.

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