A video obtained by Breitbart of Google leaders lamenting the results of the 2016 election to employees at its first all-staff meeting after the vote is causing uproar from voices on the right.
Why it matters: The video adds fuel to the ongoing conservative narrative that Silicon Valley's progressive founders and corporate cultures cause their engineers to steer algorithms to be biased against conservative voices.
The video features Google executives telling employees that the outcome of the election was not what they preferred.
- "I know that most people here are pretty upset and pretty sad about the election," Google co-founder Sergey Brin says. "Myself as an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too."
- CEO Sundar Pichai said that some employees had said they feared the outcome of the election. "There are people who are very afraid ... There is a lot of fear, so I think it's important to reach out and be aware of that fear."
- Pichai and other executives also discussed the impact of the election on issues that affect employees, like immigration.
The timing of the video's release is notable. The video, shot shortly after the election in November 2016, has been leaked nearly two years later, at a time when conservative lawmakers are alleging that tech companies use their algorithms to steer traffic away from conservative websites, voices and lawmakers.
- The concern from the right runs all the way up to the commander in chief, who tweeted several weeks ago that Google search results have been "RIGGED."
- Trump's concerns prompted the Justice Department to get involved. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly exploring an investigation of social media companies.
- Conservative members of Congress have long pressured tech on this issue. The House Energy and Commerce Committee had Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testify last week about censorship. Lawmakers pummeled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with questions about censorship when he visited Capitol Hill last spring.
- The leak also comes after Google raised the ire of Senate lawmakers by not providing a founder or CEO to testify at recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on election interference.
The footage was leaked to Breitbart, a right-wing website that's often viewed as a megaphone for the Trump White House. Google has in the past struggled with ways to keep conservative employees from feeling alienated by its progressive culture, a problem that often results in leaks.
Google says in a statement that "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, the company argues, "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."
- It is true that there has been no compelling evidence to suggest that Google, nor any other major tech platform, like Facebook or Twitter, designs its algorithms with a bias against conservative viewpoints.
Be smart: For years, Google has invested millions of dollars in creating a lobbying operation to win over the hearts of Republican lawmakers. Part of that push involves the tech firm pitching itself as unbiased and apolitical. This video, of Google's top executives emotionally discussing their opposition to Trump, makes that case harder to make.
The bigger picture: The video is an example of how tech companies, including Google, will always be on the defensive for past remarks and decisions showing political bias that can now resurface and be used as political ammunition.
“This video is the smoking gun. Google’s leadership is decidedly anti-Trump and there is no doubt that their company practices reflect that. We need hearings now. Google cannot continue to run and hide.”— Brent Bozell, President of Media Research Center, a conservative think tank