Google exec claims he was pushed out for raising human rights concerns

3 Jan 2020382 Views

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A former Google executive has published a piece claiming he was ‘sidelined’ because he raised concerns over human rights issues.

Google’s former head of international relations, Ross LaJeunesse, has published a blog post claiming he was pushed out from the company for saying it should take a stronger stance on human rights. In particular, he raised concerns over Google’s relationships with China and Saudi Arabia, where he said the company has made concessions in order to ensure its products remain available.

While at Google, LaJeunesse proposed the adoption of a company-wide human rights programme that would commit it to the principles set out by the UN Declaration of Human Rights. This would include design teams being subject to human rights impact assessments for all of its product launches and new market entries.

Google says no

“Each time I recommended a human rights programme, senior executives came up with an excuse to say no,” LaJeunesse wrote.

“At first, they said human rights issues were better handled within the product teams, rather than starting a separate programme … When I went back to senior executives to again argue for a programme, they then claimed to be worried about increasing the company’s legal liability. We provided the opinion of outside experts who re-confirmed that these fears were unfounded.”

He then claimed that, after these discussions, he was sidelined on project Dragonfly – Google’s censored search engine designed for the Chinese market, a plan that was terminated last year.

“I then realised that the company had never intended to incorporate human rights principles into its business and product decisions,” LaJeunesse said. “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.”

Calls for greater regulation

LaJeunesse also accused Google of having a toxic workplace culture where employees were discriminated against based on gender, race and sexuality. Furthermore, he claimed he was accidentally included on an email that instructed a colleague to “do some digging” into LaJeunesse for raising concerns about workplace culture.

The former Google executive is now running for a seat in the US Senate and has called on greater government oversight of major tech companies in the US.

In response to an interview with LaJeunesse in The Washington Post, Google spokesperson Jenn Kaiser said his departure from the company was due to a “reorganisation of our policy team”.

“We have an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organisations and efforts,” she said.

Colm Gorey is a senior journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

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