Sat, Aug 12, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Google cancels town hall meeting over safety issues

‘DORY’:Screenshots with names attached of an internal system for workers to ask questions were leaked and a list of homosexual employees began to circulate online

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

Google on Thursday canceled a town hall meeting intended to air viewpoints on diversity, sexism and free speech, citing worker safety concerns.

“We’ll find a better way to help our employees connect and discuss these important issues further,” a Google spokesperson said.

The employee gathering was scheduled to air viewpoints swirling in after the dismissal of a Google engineer over a memo offering advice on how to address the Silicon Valley gender gap.

The “manifesto” published as an internal memo by James Damore claimed “biological differences” were a key factor in the low percentage of women in technology jobs and sparked outcry from those claiming it perpetuated stereotypes and discrimination.

Damore was then fired — according to media reports and his own e-mail to news Web site Breitbart — which ignited a backlash from those claiming Google was stifling free speech and viewpoints it disagrees with.

News of the town hall meeting cancelation was sent to employees in a memo from CEO Sundar Pichai, who apologized to them for providing late notice.

Questions being posed internally by “Googlers,” along with some of their names, began appearing on outside Web sites, prompting safety concerns, a copy of Pichai’s memo obtained by reporters showed.

“We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward,” Pichai said in the memo. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the town hall.”

Google intends a series of internal forums in coming days to give people chances to speak freely without fear, he said.

Pichai said that he has met with many people at Google about the controversy, with the vast majority supporting the decision to fire the author of the manifesto.

The company has not officially identified the engineer at issue, citing employee privacy.

Earlier this week, Pichai said employees have a right to express themselves, but that the memo appeared to “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

“To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK,” Pichai said in his e-mail to employees.

Damore’s firing made him a hero to the far-right and those claiming political correctness has gone too far.

Damore said he had a right to voice concerns over workplace conditions and filed a labor relations board complaint prior to being fired.

Google’s internal “Dory” system allows employees to ask questions and then vote on questions posed by other employees so managers can address the most pressing ones.

Wired magazine on Thursday published some of the questions verbatim online.

Screenshots of the questions with names attached had been leaked, although none with names had been published as of late Thursday, a Google spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, a graphic composed of the Twitter profiles of several Google employees who are gay, lesbian or transgender began to circulate online, assisted by conservative commentators such as former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

That graphic drew hundreds of negative comments about the people and the company.

Aditional reporting by AP

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