Seeking to reassure employees at a meeting following the victory of Donald Trump in 2016, Google CEO Sundar Pichai outlined a range of responses to the election, including “educational tools” to reach what one participant described as “low-information voters.” Captured just a few days after the 2016 election, it shows Google executives united in dismay at the outcome of the vote.
Just a few days after the election, the Google CEO can be heard promising to prevent alleged “fake news” from impacting future elections by investing in “machine learning and A.I.” Pichai also tells employees that the company’s D.C. office has already begun the work of “engaging with the transition team of the new administration.”
The comments were brought to light in a video leaked exclusively to Breitbart News in September 2018 by an anonymous source. The video is a full recording of Google’s all-hands meeting immediately following the 2016 election, featuring CEO Sundar Pichai, co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and several other Google executives. It can be watched in full below.
“As an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive, and I know many of you do too.”
That’s how Sergey Brin, co-founder of one of the most influential companies in the world, summed up his – and much of Google’s – reaction to the election of Donald J. Trump in 2016.
“This is probably not the most joyous TGIF we’ve had” said Brin, who opened the meeting.
Responding to an online question that expressed concern at the growing income disparities between America’s heartland and its coastal regions, Brin responds:
“I think everyone’s presuming that some of these folks left behind are specifically the people who voted for Trump. I don’t think the data quite supports that – I know there’s the geographic, roughly speaking, spread [but] Hillary won the lower-income demographic…”
“The biggest relationship was whether people had really routine jobs, um, in an area, that correlated highly, uh, with Trump support versus non-routine jobs. There’s actually a lot of historical precedent for boredom being a huge factor in vote choice – and actually in building extremism.”
Later in the video, Brin says
“data shows that boredom led to fascism and also the communist revolutions, I mean there are many other factors too, but, uh, it sort of sneaks up, sometimes, you know, really bad things …”
Brin goes on to say that Google should think about how it can improve “governance” and “decision-making.”
“So I think it’s worth being very vigilant and thinking about all these issues, what we can do to lead to maybe a better quality of governance and decision-making and so forth.”
During the meeting, Google VP for Global Affairs Kent Walker assured the company that despite Trump’s election, history was “on [their] side” but that they must work to ensure that “populism [and] nationalism” around the world is nothing more than a “blip” and a “hiccup” in the march towards progress.
“And the forces out there seem well beyond you; globalization, immigration, trade … And you’re afraid, and you’re trying to look for answers. And that fear, I think, not just in the United States but around the world is what’s fueling concerns – xenophobia, hatred, and a desire for answers that may or may not be there.”
“We’re trying to figure out, how do we respond to that, what are the next steps for us before the world comes into this environment of tribalism that’s self-destructive [in] the long-term.”
Walker went on to approvingly quote then Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy (recently defeated by a populist coalition).
“Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Italy talks about two worlds: the world of the wall and the world of the square. The world of the wall, the world of the fortress, the world of the silo, and the world of the square, the piazza, the agra, the marketplace, where people come together into a community and enrich each other’s lives … The tools we build help people come into the world of the square.”
“While it may be that the internet and globalization were part of the cause of this problem, we are also fundamentally an essential part of the solution to this problem.”
“Google is a trusted source of information for people around the world. That’s incredibly valuable at times like this” Walker says, later.
Walker also responds to an employee question about “this election and others around the world” being a “hiccup in history’s arc towards progress” what whether it’s part of “the same arc that has included two World Wars.”
“History teaches us that there are periods of populism, of nationalism that rise up, and that’s all the reason we need to be in the arena.” says Walker “That’s why we have to work so hard to ensure that it doesn’t turn into a World War or something catastrophic, but instead is a blip, is a hiccup.”
“And yet, we do think that history is on our side in a profound and important way … the moral arc of history is long but it bends towards progress.”
How will Google combat the “extremism” that Brin links to Trump support? The co-founder references it himself elsewhere in the clip: the company’s internal think-tank, “Jigsaw,” which has developed tools to redirect users away from “extremist” content in search results on both Google Search and YouTube.
While Google pitched Jigsaw to the media and to Senators as a tool to fight Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS, the context of his discussing it in relation to the 2016 election suggests that his conception of “extremism” – which was not challenged by any Google executive on stage – is far broader.
After Breitbart News published this article, a Google spokesperson replied to a request for comment with the following statement:
“At a regularly scheduled all hands meeting, some Google employees and executives expressed their own personal views in the aftermath of a long and divisive election season. For over 20 years, everyone at Google has been able to freely express their opinions at these meetings. Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meeting, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products. To the contrary, our products are built for everyone, and we design them with extraordinary care to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without regard to political viewpoint.”