Over the past year, Google has faced scandals over its work in China, handling of sexual harassment allegations, and protests from its own workers who have grown disillusioned with company management.
Those issues were in full view Wednesday during parent company Alphabet's annual shareholder meeting in Sunnyvale, California, which drew several protesters and included proposals from shareholders seeking to address several issues.
One proposal asked the company for a report on sexual harassment. The report could include the total amount of money the company paid out for settlements, as well as the number of times people were fired or disciplined for violating sexual harassment policies, according to a proxy statement filed with the SEC.
Another proposal condemned a project called Dragonfly, an effort to reportedly build a censored search product for China, after Google initially retreated that market in 2010. Shareholders asked the company to prepare a "human rights impact assessment" that would highlight possible negative outcomes of the project, including censorship and endangering journalists and dissidents.
The meeting was opened by Alphabet Board Chairman John Hennessy, who reflected on Google's mission to provide information to the world. "Of course this comes with a deep and growing responsibility to ensure the technology we create benefits society as a whole," he said. "We are committed to supporting our users, our employees and our shareholders by always acting responsibly, inclusively and fairly."
Alphabet's annual meeting also comes as Silicon Valley giants have drawn intense scrutiny for their outsize scale and power. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, has made it a key part of her platform to break up the big tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Amazon. Last month, Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder, also called for the breakup of the company he helped create.
On Wednesday, a UK-based human rights organization called SumOfUs teamed up with Students for a Free Tibet propose a break up of Google, as well as a stop to projects like Dragonfly. The groups also organized a protest outside of 12 Google offices around the world to coincide with the shareholder meeting, including in San Francisco, Stockholm and Mumbai.
Sondhya Gupta, a campaign organizer at SumOfUS, said she wanted Google's leadership to consider how their actions could hurt people around the world.
"I want them to hear from the people that are most impacted really on the sharp end of technological advances that harm human rights," Gupta said in an interview. "I want them to hear what the real life damage is of what they call 'business decisions.'"
The shareholder meeting also marked the official board depRead More – Source