Google corporate responsibility

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Google corporate responsibility

"...Google is a workplace where every employee feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued. We seek to embrace diversity and create the conditions for everyone to thrive."

That's how Google describes itself on a slick website about the company's efforts to foster diversity and inclusion.

A dull campaign finance report quietly filed on Tuesday by the campaign of Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) reveals a different side of the company. According to the document, first reported in Popular Information, Hyde-Smith received a $5000 contribution from Google on November 13.

Google regularly donates money to members of both parties. But two weeks prior, Hyde-Smith stood in front of a small crowd on a sunny day in Tupelo, Mississippi and "joked" about her willingness to attend a lynching.

"If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row," Hyde-Smith said, referring to a cattle rancher who asked her to speak at the event. The crowd laughed and applauded. Her remarks went unnoticed.

Then, on November 11, a video of Hyde-Smith's comment was posted on Twitter. Hyde-Smith continued to downplay the incident, refusing to apologize and insisting her quip on lynchings did not have any "negative connotation."

Google's explanation

In a statement to Popular Information, Google claimed it donated to Hyde-Smith on November 2, before anyone was aware of her lynching comments.

This contribution was made on November 2nd before Senator Hyde-Smith's remarks became public on November 11th. While we support candidates who promote pro-growth policies for business and technology, we do not condone these remarks and would not have made such a contribution had we known about them.

There are a couple of issues with Google's statement. Within 20 days of an election, federal regulations require any contribution of $1000 or more to be reported within 48 hours. That means if Hyde-Smith really received Google's contribution on November 2, the Hyde-Smith campaign filed a false FEC report.

But it's not clear that's the case. Pressed for details on when the company conveyed their donation to Hyde-Smith, a spokesperson for Google would only say that the check to Hyde-Smith was dated November 2.

Activists demand action

Google says it "would not have made such a contribution" had it known about Hyde-Smith's remarks. At least one group is unsatisfied with that explanation.

Color of Change, a racial justice organization with 1.4 million members, is circulating a petition demanding that Google ask for its money back.  

Dear Sundar Pichai,

We demand that you ask Mississippi Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith to return Google NetPAC's $5000 donation for her disgusting comments about public hangings.

Lynchings shaped the political landscape of America and their terroristic legacy continues to play an outsized role in Mississippi. Lynchings were used to drive Black farmers off their land, stop Black people from voting or being political active, and to broadly terrorize us into accepting a subordinate place in society. As a company that has defined itself around the idea of "don't be evil," supporting a candidate that makes light of this legacy of racial terrorism is an abdication of Google's moral authority.

To ensure Google never funds a candidate like this again, we call on you to immediately and publicly define a clear values path for giving to political candidates. Candidates who in engage in racist and white supremacist language and rhetoric, or support discriminatory policies should never receive financial support from Google.

This goes to the heart of Google's claim that it would not have donated money to Hyde-Smith had it been aware of her lynching comments. Today, the company is well aware of Hyde-Smith's remarks, but it is not asking for its money back.

Trump to the rescue

The controversy around Hyde-Smith's lynching comments has some Republicans nervous about the November 27 run-off election against Mike Espy, which was not expected to be competitive in bright red Mississippi.

Trump, according to Politico, may make a last minute appearance to shore up her campaign.

Espy, meanwhile, continued to blast Hyde-Smith for her comments and her refusal to apologize. "The comment was hurtful. The comment was harmful. It was harmful to Mississippians of goodwill who remember what happened decades ago. It is harmful because of the harmful stereotypes that so many people like me have worked to overcome," Espy said at a candidate forum in Jackson, Mississippi.

Big Tech's true colors

Republicans have accused Silicon Valley, including Google, as having a liberal bias. But if you follow the money, it reveals a different reality. In addition to its contribution to Hyde-Smith, Google donated $10,000 to Making America Prosperous (MAP), the leadership PAC of Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX). As corporations publicly distanced themselves from Congressman Steve King (R-IA) over ties to white nationalism, MAP sent $5000 to King's campaign.

Hyde-Smith's campaign has also been bolstered by Mississippi Victory Fund, a Super PAC. Its largest contributor is Sean Parker, the founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook, who donated $250,000 to the effort. The Mississippi Victory Fund is expected to spend $600,000 in support of Hyde-Smith in the closing days of the campaign.

Facebook, meanwhile, has employed a Republican opposition research firm to discredit its liberal critics, "in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros," the New York Times reports. At the same time, Facebook persuaded "a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic."

Facebook, according to the New York Times, also resisted making information about Russia's use of the platform to influence the 2016 election public. Joel Kaplan, a Republican and the company's chief Washington representative, argued that if Facebook were forthcoming with the facts, "Republicans would accuse the company of siding with Democrats." Even when stonewalling became untenable, Kaplan reviewed "Facebook news releases for words or phrases that might rile conservatives."

After Facebook made changes to its algorithm this year, the highest performing pages are the ones that post right-wing memes.  

Trump's soggy cereal

This is just a theory, but I don't think Donald Trump has ever bought cereal at a grocery store.

In an interview with the far-right Daily Caller, Trump offered an unusual argument to justify voter ID laws. The laws have become a popular way for Republicans to erect an additional barrier to voting, especially among minority populations with a higher concentration of potential voters who lack the necessary documents.

"If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID. They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing," Trump said.

This wasn't mentioned in the Daily Caller article, but you do not need an ID to buy cereal.

Trump also called for Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes to be removed from office, calling her a "disgrace" and repeatedly suggested she rigged the vote totals for Democrats.

It was a similar argument that Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) made in federal court earlier this week. A judge rejected Scott's claim and said there was no evidence of voter fraud or any other illegal activity.

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This is a bonus edition normally available only to paid subscribers. You can subscribe for $6 per month or $50 for an entire year.