PC and PG Matter More than Content at Google

Transparency and directness – I have always been a pretty passionate guy, especially at Waze. After the acquisition, I was invited to speak on many different Google panels and events and very quickly, I began racking up my HR complaints. I used a four letter word, my analogy was not PC, my language was not PG… I actually stopped speaking at events where the majority appreciated what I was saying but the minority that was offended by something (words and not content) made it a pain. I began watching what I said, what I discussed and began wearing a corporate persona (I was still probably one of the less PC characters at Google but this was my cleaned up act…). I value transparency and feel that people should bring themselves to work but that also means a certain tolerance of people not saying something exactly as you would like them to or believing something you don’t. That tolerance is gone at Google and “words” > “content” is the new Silicon Valley mantra of political correctness. You can say terrible things as long as your pronouns are correct or can say super important things but use one wrong word and it’s off to HR for you…

This is from Noam Bardin, “Why did I leave Google or, why did I stay so long?“, PayGo. It time stamps as “a few seconds ago,” but I know that can’t be right because I read it this morning. That’s a picture of Bardin at the top.

Bardin was CEO at Waze, one of my favorite apps when I’m driving. (Because I have a radar detector, the warning about cops is less valuable to me when I’m driving than the warning about cars parked on the side of the road.) Waze was bought out by Google some years ago.

The whole article is full of insights, some of which Arnold Kling has highlighted. It’s really a beautiful analysis of incentives. The part I quote above is one of the most disturbing. Bardin’s comment about Google on the issue of words versus content reminds me of Professor Henry Higgins’s comment, in his My Fair Lady song, “Why Can’t the English Teach Their Children How to Speak?”, about the French: “The French never care what they do, actually, As long as they pronounce it properly.”

Similarly, the people at Google’s HR don’t care how terrible are the things you say as long as you use the right words. I’m sure this is an exaggeration and that Bardin knows it’s an exaggeration, just as I’m sure Henry Higgins was exaggerating, but Bardin’s making an important, and concerning, point.


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Ninos Malek on the Ins and Outs of Free Speech


Ninos P. Malek is a Lecturer in the Economics department at San Jose State University and a Professor of Economics at De Anza College in Cupertino, California. He earned his Ph.D. at George Mason University. He sent the following to me and gave me permission to run it.


Some conservatives, notably Tucker Carlson and Dennis Prager, complain that big “tech monopolies” are squashing conservative ideas. They claim that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are enemies of free speech because they block or take down conservative opinions.

Do these tech giants deny free speech? No, they do not. In my own home, I have the right to control the speech and behavior of my guests. For example, I might tell them to stop using foul language while they are on my property. This would not violate their free speech. I have a right to create and enforce my own rules on my private property; moreover, my guests were not forced to come to my house or to stay at my house. Similarly, Google, Facebook and Twitter have the right to control what is said on their sites. No one is forced to use those sites. Someone who feels strongly enough about their alleged anti-conservative bias can simply stop using their services.

These giant tech companies (I purposely do not refer to them as “monopolies”) may well filter out conservative websites from their search engine or block posts and “tweets” that have a conservative slant. But conservatives do not have a right to have their organizations displayed on a private company’s search engine. Individuals or organizations do not have a right to post their opinions and material on a private company’s private property—their social media platform.  And I write this as someone who generally supports Prager U and other conservative organizations.

Prager argued in a congressional hearing that these major companies are suppressing ideas, thereby threatening the future of the United States. He stated that he had contacted Google to ask why it blocks certain Prager U videos, but Google apparently did not offer him an explanation by the time he testified.

Carlson has pointed out that many media companies depend on Google, giving Google power. In fact, he says he believes that no company in human history has had so much power over information. According to Carlson, “It’s been clear for a very long time that the Big Tech companies have now surpassed the federal government as the chief threat to our liberties.”

The critics of these large technology companies point to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 as the source of their power. Section 230 prevents the courts from holding major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter responsible for what individuals do based on the content of their sites. The argument in favor of Section 230 is that, without it, these companies might not exist out of fear of litigation, so that consumers would be worse off.

I agree that “progressives,” who are diametrically opposed to conservative ideals and moral values, run Google, Twitter and Facebook. This is no shock since these companies are based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The problem is that while conservatives claim they believe in the free market, they actually want the government to intervene in the market. A true supporter of liberty, freedom, and free markets would oppose government intervention.

Now, if the government ordered Google, Facebook, and Twitter to filter out conservative sites or to block out conservative opinions, that would be a violation of free speech. If the government legally prevented an entrepreneur from competing with Google, Facebook, or Twitter then that would anticompetitive. In a truly free market, the only responsibility that the government has with respect to business is to enforce contracts and prosecute violations of property rights—not to make sure everyone gets a “fair shake” on someone else’s private property.

When the administrations at public institutions block conservative speakers or when leftist organizations or students shout down and shut down conservative speech at taxpayer-financed institutions, those are violations of free speech because those institutions are tax-funded. Only government can violate free speech rights.

There is nothing wrong with Dennis Prager asking individuals to voluntarily sign a petition to get Facebook to stop blocking Prager U videos. However, that is different from asking the government to force private companies to give everyone an equal voice. Just as it would not be a violation of free speech or a denial of liberty if a conservative company blocked liberal voices or material from its website, there is no right for conservatives to have their voices heard or their material played on the private property of a private company.




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