Posted on September 25, 2018

Google Employees Discussed ‘Leveraging’ Search Engine to Promote Pro-Immigration Sites After Trump’s Travel Ban

Jennifer Smith, Daily Mail, September 21, 2018

Google employees discussed leveraging their influence over the internet to promote pro-immigration websites after President Trump imposed his controversial travel ban last January, it has been revealed.

In an email chain obtained by The Wall Street Journal, the staff members — who were not named — talked about the ‘importance’ of promoting the websites, such as the ACLU, so that internet users could donate to them.

Their plan did not go into effect after warnings from executives that it was a ‘highly political’ issue which they should not be seen getting in the middle of.

The emails were written on January 29, two days after Trump implemented his ban on travel to the US from seven Middle Eastern and African countries.

They said: ‘I know this would require a full on sprint to make happen, but I think this is the sort of super timely and imperative information that we need as we know that this country and Google, would not exist without immigration.’

One Google employee said they believed the search results afterward Trump’s ban generated ‘islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms Islam, Muslim, Iran’. etc.’

They considered going to similar lengths for ‘Mexico, Hispanic, Latino’, etc.

They suggested an ‘overall idea’ which was to ‘leverage search to highlight important organizations to donate to, current news, etc. to keep people abreast of how they can help as well as the resources available for immigrations [sic] or people traveling.’

They suggested using Highlights — an experimental feature Google has tested which allows certain sites or people to post updates that appear directly in search results.

The employees wanted to implement highlights from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the American Civil Liberties Union in this case which spearheaded the fight against the ban and raised millions of dollars through donations.

Many were in favor. One public affairs executive said: ‘We’re absolutely in…Anything you need.’

But another warned caution, saying: ‘Very much in favor of Google stepping up, but just have a few questions on this including how partisan we want to be on this.

‘To the extent of my knowledge, we’d be breaching precedent if we only gave Highlights access to organizations that support a certain view of the world in a time of political conflict.

‘Is that accurate? If so, would we be willing to open access to highlights to [organizations] that…actually support the ban?’

Google would not reveal any of the employees or executives’ identities on Friday and did not say whether anyone had faced discipline over it.

A spokesman told the emails indicated a ‘brainstorming’ session and that it was always fair and equal.

‘These emails were just a brainstorm of ideas, none of which were ever implemented.

‘Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology — not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration.

‘Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies,’ the spokesman said.

It was one of many companies which publicly stated its disapproval of the ban and one of its co-founders Sergey Brin has attended anti-Trump rallies on the issue in the past too.

The company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, is also an immigrant.