Former Google exec pens blistering diatribe against company, says puts profits before human rights

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Ross LaJeunesse, the former head of international relations at Google, leveled some harsh accusations against his former employer, claiming that the tech giant ignored human rights concerns and facilitated a toxic workplace.

Oh, by the way, LaJeunesse is also running for the U.S. Senate in Maine, looking to be the Democratic challenger to incumbent Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

The candidate penned a long essay Thursday about why he left Google, declaring: “The company’s motto used to be ‘Don’t be evil.’ Things have changed.”

In pointing to Google launching products in China following a 2010 decision to stop cooperating with Chinese government censorship on Search results, LaJeunesse said he had concerns about violating human rights.

“I argued strenuously against these plans, knowing that a complete turn-around in our approach would make us complicit in human rights violations,” he wrote.

“My solution was to advocate for the adoption of a company-wide, formal Human Rights Program that would publicly commit Google to adhere to human rights principles found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights,” he added. “But each time I recommended a Human Rights Program, senior executives came up with an excuse to say no.”

LaJeunesse said he became alarmed when he learned in 2017 that Google was moving forward with a new version of a censored search product for the Chinese, codenamed “Dragonfly.”

“But Dragonfly was only one of several developments that concerned those of us who still believed in the mantra of ‘Don’t be evil,'” he said. “I was also concerned that loud executives were actively pursuing deals with the Saudi government, given its horrible record of human rights abuses.”

In response, LaJeunesse said he advocated for Google to adopt a formal company-wide Human Rights Program that would publicly commit Google to adhere to human rights principles found in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

“But each time I recommended a Human Rights Program, senior executives came up with an excuse to say no,” he wrote.

After saying he was “sidelined from the on-going conversations on whether to launch Dragonfly,” LaJuenesse concluded the company was intent on putting profits before a human rights agenda.

“I then realized that the company had never intended to incorporate human rights principles into its business and product decisions,” he declared. ” Just when Google needed to double down on a commitment to human rights, it decided to instead chase bigger profits and an even higher stock price.”

LaJeunesse also suggested bigotry and sexism was present in the workplace at Google.

“It was no different in the workplace culture. Senior colleagues bullied and screamed at young women, causing them to cry at their desks,” LaJeunesse alleged. “At an all-hands meeting, my boss said, ‘Now you Asians come to the microphone too. I know you don’t like to ask questions.’ At a different all-hands meeting, the entire policy team was separated into various rooms and told to participate in a ‘diversity exercise’ that placed me in a group labeled ‘homos’ while participants shouted out stereotypes such as ‘effeminate’ and ‘promiscuous.’ Colleagues of color were forced to join groups called ‘Asians’ and ‘Brown people’ in other rooms nearby.”

He went on to say “standing up for women, for the LGBTQ community, for colleagues of color, and for human rights — had cost me my career.”

“To me, no additional evidence was needed that ‘Don’t be evil’ was no longer a true reflection of the company’s values; it was now nothing more than just another corporate marketing tool,” LaJeunesse concluded.

Google issued a statement disputing LaJeunesse’s take on events.

“We have an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organizations and efforts,” the release said, according to the Daily Beast. “Ross was offered a new position at the exact same level and compensation, which he declined to accept. We wish Ross all the best with his political ambitions.”

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Tom Tillison

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