In a leaked video, Google executives express their acute disappointment in Donald Trump's victory in 2016. Showing the media giant’s first all-staff meeting after the election, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, chief executive Sundar Pichai, and other reflect on the election and offer reassurances to their employees about issues ranging from benefits for same-sex spouses to immigration status and issues such as filter bubbles, encryption, net neutrality, and political polarization.
Google exec Ruth Porat was in tears while discussing her support of failed candidate Hillary Clinton. Kent Walker of Google described trends toward nationalism and populism around the world, while CEO Pichai affirmed that the company was “thoughtfully engaging” with the Trump transition team.
Google co-founder Brin said, “As an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too.” Brin added, “I think it’s a very stressful time. It conflicts with many of our values. It’s a good time to reflect on that.” He went on to describe Trump voters to fascists who were motivated by "boredom." They are "low-information" voters, he said.
First released by Breitbart, the video is believed to show Google’s bias against Republicans. Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted that Google “needs to explain why this isn’t a threat to the Republic.”
Brin questioned whether Trump’s constituents were “people who were left behind” and acclaimed Clinton for winning “the low-income vote”. Brin showed some sympathy for anti-establishment voters, saying, “It feels kind of good to just like give DC a big kick when you vote … I can kind of get that.”
Google exec Eileen Noughton acknowledged some employees’ concerns over their visa status, but encouraged the company’s 10,000 employees to be inclusive of conservative co-workers. “I do want to be clear that diversity also means diversity of opinion and political persuasion,” she said. “I have heard from some conservative Googlers in the past few days that they haven’t felt comfortable. We need to do better; we need to be tolerant, inclusive.”
Walker said that Google should ensure that populism is a mere "hiccup" in a historical arc that "bends toward progress." He added that Trump voters are motivated by "fear, xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there." Moreover, Pichai affirmed that Google is developing machine learning/A.I. to combat what one employee described as "misinformation" shared by "low-information voters."
Key moments from the video can be found at the following timestamps:
(00:00:00 – 00:01:12) Google co-founder Sergey Brin said that the weekly meeting is “probably not the most joyous we’ve had” and that “most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad.”
(00:00:24) Brin balances his disgruntlement with Trump’s election with his approval of the legalization of marijuana in California, which was met laughter and titters from the crowd.
(00:01:12) Brin says he is “deeply offen[ded]” by Trumps victory, saying that the election “conflicts with many of [Google’s] values.”
(00:09:10) Senior VP for Global Affairs Kent Walker concluded that Trump voters were motivated by: “fear, not just in the United States, but around the world is fueling concerns, xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.”
(00:09:35) Walker describes the Trump election as a sign of “tribalism that’s self-destructive [in] the long-term.”
(00:09:55) Walker assures his listeners that “history is on our side” and that the “moral arc of history bends towards progress.”
(00:10:45) Walker quotes former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s comparison between “the world of the wall” with its “isolation and defensiveness” and the “world of the square, the piazza, the marketplace, where people come together into a community and enrich each other’s lives.”
(00:13:10) CFO Ruth Porat breaks down in tears when discussing the election result.
(00:15:20) Porat promises that Google will “use the great strength and resources and reach we have to continue to advance really important values.”
(00:16:50) Stating “we all need a hug,” she then instructs the audience of Google employees to hug the person closest to them.
(00:20:24) VP of People Operations Eileen Naughton says Google’s policy team in Washington DC is “all over” the immigration issue and will “keep a close watch on it.”
(00:21:26) Naughton responds to Google employees who are asking, ‘Can I move to Canada?’ after the election. She discusses the options available to Google employees who wish to leave the U.S..
(00:23:12) Naughton acknowledges the value of “diversity of opinion and political persuasion” and says she has heard from conservative Google employees who say they “haven’t felt entirely comfortable revealing who [they] are.” and urged “tolerance.” Nevertheless, the company would fire James Damore allegedly for disagreeing with progressive narratives.
(00:27:00) Responding to a question about “filter bubbles,” Sundar Pichai promises to work towards “correcting” Google’s role in them.
(00:27:30) Brin praises a suggestion from the audience of increasing matched Google employee donations to progressive groups.
(00:34:40) Brin compares Trump voters to “extremists,” making a comparison between the economic background of Trump supporters and extremist movements. Brin says that “voting is not a rational act” and that not all of Trump’s support can be attributed to “income disparity.” He said Trump voters might have been motivated by boredom rather than legitimate concerns.
(00:49:10) When an audience member asks if Google is willing to “invest in grassroots, hyper-local efforts to bring tools and services and understanding of Google products and knowledge” so that people can “make informed decisions that are best for themselves.” Pichai said, Google will ensure its “educational products” reach “segments of the population [they] are not [currently] fully reaching.”
(00:54:33) An employee asks what Google is going to do about “misinformation” and “fake news” shared by “low-information voters.” Pichai states that “investments in machine learning and AI” are a “big opportunity” to fix the problem.
(00:56:12) Responding to an audience member, Walker says Google must ensure the rise of populism doesn’t turn into “a world war or something catastrophic … and instead is a blip, a hiccup.”
(00:58:22) Brin compares Trump voters to supporters of fascism and communism, linking the former movement to “boredom,” which Brin previously linked to Trump voters. “It sort of sneaks up sometimes, really bad things” says Brin.
(01:01:15) A Google employee states: “speaking to white men, there’s an opportunity for you right now to understand your privilege” and urges employees to “go through the bias-busting training, read about privilege, read about the real history of oppression in our country.” He urges employees to “discuss the issues you are passionate about during Thanksgiving dinner and don’t back down and laugh it off when you hear the voice of oppression speak through metaphors.” Every executive on stage – the CEO, CFO, two VPs and the two Co-founders – applaud the employee.
(01:01:57) An audience member asks if the executives see “anything positive from this election result.” The audience of Google employees, and the executives on stage, burst into laughter. “Boy, that’s a really tough one right now” says Brin.
After the release of the video, a Google spokesperson released the following statement:
“At a regularly scheduled all-hands meeting, some Google employees and executives expressed their own personal views in the aftermath of a long and divisive election season,” Google said in a statement. “For over 20 years, everyone at Google has been able to freely express their opinions at these meetings. Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. 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 needs to explain why this isn’t a threat to the Republic. Watch the video. Google believes they can shape your search results and videos to make you “have their values”. Open borders. Socialism. Medicare 4 all. Congressional hearings! Investigatehttps://t.co/jlbSgMMrLT— Brad Parscale (@parscale) September 12, 2018
According to a November 28, 2016 report by the Campaign for Accountability, executives and employee at Google “bet heavily on a Clinton victory, hoping to extend the company’s influence on the Obama White House. They lost that bet, and are left scrambling to find an entrée to the Trump Administration.” The report noted that persons associated with Google joined the Trump transition team, despite the company’s close relationship with the Obama administration and its efforts in favor of Clinton.
“Google’s executives and employees employed a variety of strategies to elect Hillary Clinton and defeat Donald Trump. Google permeated Clinton’s sphere of influence on a broad scale, rivaling the influence it exerted over the Obama administration. A review found at least 57 people were affiliated with both Clinton—in her presidential campaign, in her State Department, at her family foundation—and with Google or related entities. In addition, 10 people who worked under Clinton at the State Department later joined the New America Foundation, a Google-friendly think tank where Google’s Eric Schmidt served as chairman and was a top donor.”
Schmidt was seen wearing a staff I.D. at the event center on election night in 2016 where Hillary Clinton had expected to announce her victory. Schmidt was Google's executive chairman from 2001 to 2015, followed by working at parent company Alphabet from 2015 to 2017. In 2017, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $119 billion.