Google May Come to Regret Its Leftwing Bias
Google is left wing. Not just in its corporate culture, but in its politics. Its execs seem to believe that’s not a problem, but they might want to rethink that.
Google’s Left-Wing Echo Chamber
The lawsuit filed by fired employees James Damore and David Gudeman has exposed Google’s leftwing office culture. (Damore is the guy who was fired after writing a memo about Google’s “ideological echo chamber.”) Acording to Damore and Gudeman, Google has had company events featuring employees who identify as “a wingless dragonkin” and “and internal ornate building.” They’ve also had events “catering to alternative lifestyles, including furries, polygamy, transgenderism, and plurality.” That’s all fine and dandy. But if you write a memo suggesting that part of the gender gap in tech is the result of men and women making different choices, you won’t last a week.
Google doesn’t just have a corporate culture problem. It biases its services against conservatives. Both Michael Brown and Prager University, for instance, have had videos blacklisted and demonetized by YouTube. (“Google” is a subsidiary of the larger Alphabet holding company, which also owns YouTube.)
Conservatives have suspected for years that Google searches are also biased against them. Leo Goldstein’s analysis in September showed the search engine seems to use an Al-Gore-ithm for sorting searches on climate questions. And when it comes to news, “Google Search is heavily biased against conservative domains.”
Google Has a Problem
Well, it’s a private company, not the federal government. Can’t private companies have a point of view? Isn’t Google just expressing its viewpoint much like Hobby Lobby does?
Sorry, the analogy doesn’t hold.
First, Hobby Lobby, a privately-held family company, didn’t fire, say, a Jewish employee who insists on being Jewish. Unfair discrimination in hiring and firing is against the law. That’s what Damore’s and Gudeman’s lawsuit is about. And that’s why Google will try to deny that it uses a partisan litmus test on its employees.
Second, left wing activism is not part of Google’s service. It’s not MoveOn.org. Google won the search engine war by being the best. That is, by anticipating what users were looking for. No one types “What’s the weather today?” into Google in hopes of finding the left wing take on the weather. They want to find out what the weather is like today.
If Google employees are distorting search results, and everybody knows it, that’s bad for the brand.
Third, the company has outsized power. It is, as Leonid Bershidsky puts it, “the owner of the world’s biggest conduit to information, with a 69 percent global search market share.” As a result, Google should bend over backwards to be neutral. As Berskidsky says:
Google’s search algorithms are a black box to the public. People inside the company can mess with them without telling us, potentially imposing their internal culture on millions of searchers who have no reason and no desire to share it. … But if [Google] fosters a work culture in which a certain worldview dominates, can its products be trusted to be neutral?
For the most part, government has given Google ample space to grow and innovate, and to acquire other companies. It’s even gone so far as to change laws to allow Google News to index and aggregate news from other sources, on the assumption that everyone benefits.
But what happens if Google is exposed as a partisan actor? Trust-busting.
The EU has already slapped the U.S. company with massive fines in Europe for anti-trust violations. It’s mostly avoided these problems in the U.S. so far, perhaps because it has been a darling of the left.
But there are now some anti-trust tremors on the left. Jonathan Taplin published a book last summer calling for government to break up the tech giants. And stars of progressives like Elizabeth Warren seem to be rising, as those of crony capitalists like Hillary Clinton fade and pass over the horizon. Trust busting has always been a favored tool of the left.
So, who’s keeping the federal government from going after Google and other tech giants? It’s conservatives such as Mike Lee, chair of the Senate Antitrust subcommittee. Last week, he resisted Fox New’s Tucker Carlson, who suggested it might be time to take on Google. If someone doesn’t like Google, Lee said, he can “use another search engine.”
That’s a healthy impulse. Lee is a solid defender of limited government and free markets. No doubt he knows that most private monopolies are short-lived. The ones that survive long term tend to be government-created. Rather than breaking up real monopolies, government ends up joined at the hip with large private actors. Those actors help write the regulations that keep out new competition.
The left talks about breaking up big companies. Instead, they end up turning big companies into protected utilities.
At the moment, Lee and other conservatives don’t seem keen on going after Google. What happens, though, if the company keeps pushing a partisan political agenda, while it expands into ever more sectors, from smartphones to self-driving cars?
Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin might want to ponder the prospect that principled conservatives are keeping the anti-trust dogs at bay. At some point, though, they may grow weary of guarding the gates.