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SF Pride considers excluding Google from parade over homophobic harassment on YouTube

Google employees march in a Pride parade. | Photo: Wikipedia
By Sasha Perigo - Published on June 06, 2019.

Editor's note: This story contains homophobic language and statements.

Last night, LGBTQ+ activists and former Google employees attended an overflowing San Francisco Pride Board meeting to lobby for the exclusion of Google from this year's Pride parade and celebration.

Google has faced media backlash after journalist Carlos Maza, who is gay, accused the company of enabling homophobic harassment on its YouTube video platform.

Earlier this week, Maza, who produces the Vox video series "Strikethrough," opened up on Twitter about a yearlong harassment campaign he's faced from right-wing YouTube star Steven Crowder.

Maza says that Crowder, who has amassed over 3.8 million followers on YouTube, has called him a "lispy queer," "a little queer," and a "gay Mexican." Crowder sells T-shirts bearing Maza's face and the slogan "Socialism is for F-gs," which he's advertised on his YouTube channel.

Maza reported the harassment to YouTube, arguing that it violated a provision in the company's terms of service that bars hate speech.

On Tuesday, YouTube responded to Maza on Twitter, saying that Crowder's content did not violate its terms of service. After public outcry, the company agreed to withhold ad revenue from Crowder's channel until he removed the link to his T-shirt sales website from his video descriptions.

At yesterday's Pride Board meeting, activists expressed concerns that allowing Google to participate in this year's festivities would be seen as an endorsement of YouTube's actions. 

"This feels like a classic example of 'rainbow-washing,'" said activist and former Google employee Tyler Bresaicher. [Full disclosure: The author of this story was also previously employed by Google.]

"[Google] gets a lot of press for being progressive," said another former employee, who requested anonymity. "But even during Pride Month, this is how they behave." 

Google did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

While the Pride Board does have the power to exclude organizations from Pride festivities, it's never exercised it in the past.

In 2015, the Board came close to barring Facebook from participating in Pride over the company's "real name" policy, which many transgender people found discriminatory. In a narrow 5-4 vote, the Pride Board allowed Facebook to continue to participate.

At this time, no decision has been made about Google's participation in the parade. The Pride Board's members, none of whom were serving at the time of the 2015 Facebook vote, said at last night's meeting that they intend to monitor the situation as it develops.

If the board were to take action to exclude Google from San Francisco's Pride festivities, Breisacher hopes it would get the company's attention.

"More and more, [digital profiles] are people's identities," he said. "This is especially true for queer people who don't have communities where they're from [...] You can't just tell people to 'block the trolls and ignore them.'"

An anonymous former employee said they hope that Google's exclusion from the parade could give more credibility to employees organizing for better conditions inside the company.

Last November, Google employees organized a walkout over the company's handling of sexual harassment. In April, a number of the walkout's organizers said they faced retaliation at work as a result, including demotions. 

Update, 6/7, 11:26 a.m.: A spokesperson for San Francisco Pride says that Google has already registered as a contingent for the parade, and will remain a participant unless the Pride Board decides otherwise.

"We are monitoring this story as it develops, listening to the concerns of the community, and have raised these concerns with our contacts at Google," the representative said.

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