Following a controversy over an Indian speaker, Google implemented a new set of rules for HQ guest speakers

Following a controversy over an Indian speaker, Google implemented a new set of rules for HQ guest speakers

Tech Bytes

Google has been embroiled in speaker disputes since it claimed internal strife was the cause of the cancellation of an author's talk on India's socioreligious caste system in April.

Soundararajan is an advocate for those who are negatively affected by caste discrimination. Days after canceling a session by an Indian historian who had disparaged marginalized communities and their concerns, Google, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc. (1), revised guidelines for inviting visitors to its headquarters this week, according to Reuters.

The policy, unveiled on Thursday, represents Google's most recent attempt to uphold an open culture while addressing divisions that have grown as its staff has expanded.

Workers at Google and other major tech businesses have fought and protested in recent years over politics and issues of racial and gender justice. As a result of union mobilization, Alphabet, Apple Inc. (2), and Inc. (3) are all under pressure to implement progressive practices.

The Google speaker guidelines state that some talks risk the company's reputation. They also ask employees to consider whether there is a business reason to host the speaker and whether the event directly advances the company's objectives. It urges avoiding subjects that would disrupt or threaten Google's sense of community and reiterates that speakers are prohibited from endorsing political candidates and ballot initiatives.

Following a controversy over an Indian speaker, Google implemented a new set of rules for HQ guest speakers
Photo by Jaime Lopes / Unsplash

Ryan Lamont (4), a spokesman for Google, said that the company has always been proud to welcome outside speakers to its offices because they offer wonderful chances for interaction and learning. The updating procedure will guarantee that these activities serve a purpose and foster a positive work environment.

An assortment of rules is unified and clarified, according to an email announcing the policy for managers. The free-flowing, university-like culture has been threatened by increased scrutiny since its inception, as Google has valued its employees. Still, a more welcoming workplace may draw a more diverse workforce, which could aid the company in creating products with a wider market.

The public exposure of internal conflicts in recent years prompted Google to reduce the frequency of company-wide meetings and tighten content moderation on message boards used at work. At the same time, rivals like Meta Platforms Inc. also have speaker invitation rules.

Former U.S. presidential contender Barack Obama (5), famous chef Ayesha Currey, and former basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have all spoken at Google. Since leaving a discussion by author Thenmozhi Soundararajan (6), who fights for those oppressed by caste prejudice, on India's socioreligious caste system in April, Google has been embroiled in disputes about speakers.

Members of a Hindu group within the organization had complained that Soundararajan's rhetoric was inflammatory, which she refers to as bigoted. According to an internal message, at least one of the critics suggested asking Rajiv Malhotra to serve as a balance (7).

Following a controversy over an Indian speaker, Google implemented a new set of rules for HQ guest speakers
Photo by Jason Rosewell / Unsplash

Tech entrepreneur turned "contrarian ethos" advocate Malhotra has called activists like Soundararajan "snakes" and criticized affirmative action programs that support lower caste groups. According to an invitation, the Hindu group at Google scheduled Malhotra to speak about India's positive impact on the world.

However, the planned talk at Google's Silicon Valley offices was postponed by the organizers on November 10, the day before the event. According to a message seeking complaints, some employees complained to senior management about Mahotra.

Malhotra was mentioned in a paper by the Alphabet Workers Union, a labor group urging Google to include caste in its anti-discrimination policy. The document also labels Islam as a destructive force and homosexuality as a medical issue. According to Malhotra, who spoke to Reuters, he supports marginalized communities but is against politicizing bias in a way that splits cultures and leaves them open to outside colonization.

According to the staff memos, allowing his speech after canceling Soundararajan's would have amounted to a conflicting standard. According to the new speaker policy, employees must submit a proposal and have a cross-functional review team approve it.

At least 12 weeks before an event, requests must be made. It states that failure to follow this process is against Google's regulations, so you should wait for a response before signing a contract with the speaker and their representative.

Siddhesh Surve

An Enthusiastic Learner! With his roots in Navi Mumbai and a Journalism Background, he aims to connect with readers and share facts about his hobby, "tech in India," and its advancing inventions.