Firing of James Damore, engineer behind controversial anti-diversity memo, sparks ire from alt-right reminiscent of 2014 Gamergate harassment campaign
Google cancelled a company-wide meeting on Thursday after several of its employees became targets of a Gamergate-style campaign of harassment by internet trolls angered by the firing of an engineer who had written a controversial memo about diversity.
We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward, CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email. But following the leak of proposed discussion questions, he said Googlers, a term used internally to describe employees, were being personally named on websites.
Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be outed publicly for asking a question in the town hall, he said.
The town hall meeting had been scheduled to give Google employees a chance to discuss the fallout from a document written by software engineer James Damore that began circulating widely within the company last week, and was leaked to the press over the weekend. The memo criticized Googles diversity programs, arguing that the company was intolerant of conservative ideologies and that the wide gender disparity at Google could be explained by biological differences between men and women.
Damore was fired Monday, after CEO Sundar Pichai called some of the memos contents contrary to our basic values and our code of conduct.
Damore and his memo have quickly become a cause celebre within various rightwing internet communities, including Breitbart News, alt-right Twitter and YouTube personalities, Redditors, and disgraced former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos. Breitbart has published a series of articles singling out individual Google employees as social justice warriors, in some cases accompanied by screenshots of internal chats about diversity.
The leak of screenshots to Breitbart suggests that at least some current Google employees may be participating in the campaign.
The controversy marries twin preoccupations of the online right: threats to free speech against conservatives, and the perception that white men are discriminated against by those seeking to promote historically disadvantaged groups. The loose coalition of agitators includes many of the forces that engaged in the Gamergate harassment campaign in 2014. Indeed, the Google memo is a major topic on the main subReddit for Gamergaters, known as r/KotakuInAction.
Alt-right internet personality Jack Posobiec announced plans to hold coordinated protests at Google campuses around the country on 19 August. Meanwhile, Damore debuted a new Twitter account and professional photographs of himself wearing a shirt with the slogan Goolag.