Google canceled a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals event at the company’s California campus after employees complained the animal rights group compares animal abuse to racism, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Google employees invited Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and president of PETA, to discuss her view that animals and humans are subject to similar levels of prejudice. Other employees claimed the topic was offensive to humans who face racism. The event was canceled after the employees protested.
“Google has these values, and with our talks, we have to align with these values,” a Google employee told Newkirk, according to a transcript of a phone call the two shared. “Googlers For Animals” invited the PETA president, whose talk was later squelched when members of the “Black Googler Network” complained.
Newkirk planned to show a video in which a member of the Wu-Tang Clan transforms from a black man into an Asian woman and eventually into a bear and a chicken. “It doesn’t matter if we have fur or feathers or fins, the length of our nose or the number of legs,” hip hop artist RZA says in the video. “We’re not different in any important way.”
The talk is an example of internal political strife roiling the tech company. Google received withering criticism from conservatives after the company fired former engineer James Damore in 2017 for writing and internally sending a memo criticizing the company’s diversity policies. Conservatives are not the only group complaining about Google’s culture. Liberal groups are targeting other liberal groups for supposedly being intolerant.
“Activists at Google” organized protests directed at President Donald Trump’s policies, according to the WSJ’s report. Also, employees associated with “Sex Positive at Google” are concerned that explicit content is being nixed from the company’s sharing software.
Google created another group shortly after the PETA incident responsible for reviewing speakers in advance to determine if their content will offend so-called Googlers.
“There was, like, a sort of outcry in response” said Google employee David Barry, referring to Newkirk’s proposed talk, according to the WSJ. “And the last thing that Google wants, that we want to do, is to make people, like, feel alienated, or hurt people, like, who voiced concern over this talk,” he added.
The incident struck Newkirk by surprise. “It’s the most anti-racist talk you’ll ever hear,” she said.