Video of an internal Google meeting shows the company’s top officials talking about using AI to fight populism and “low-information voters” in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US presidential election.
The 1-hour “confidential, for internal use only” video was posted by Breitbart on Wednesday. It has gained traction online, and is cited by pro-Trump commentators as yet another proof of the Silicon Valley’s bias towards conservatives.
It shows a meeting of the company’s executives with rattled staff members shortly after the 2016 presidential election.
“Myself as an immigrant and a refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too,”Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin says in the opening minutes of the video, before admitting that “many people apparently don’t share the values that we have.”
Later in the conversation, Brin attempts to explain the inner motives that prompted Trump supporters to vote as they did. He argues that the boredom that stems from handling a “routine job” is what drove people to opt for the Republican candidate in the first place.
“There is actually a lot of historical precedent of boredom being a huge factor in vote choice and actually in building extremism,” Brin says.
Asked by an employee what Google has in stock to fight off “very organized misinformation campaign” targeting “low-information voters,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that Google should be “investing more in machine learning and AI is a big opportunity there.”
Seemingly foreshadowing the narrative crafted by the mainstream media later on, Brin mentions “a lot [of] cyber-trolling by nation states, basically Russia,” as part of the problem, adding that “it was never taken all that seriously.”
“That’s something else I think we ought to really focus on,” Brin says.
VP for Global Affairs Kent Walker assured the employees that “history is on our side in a profound and important way”, describing that rise of anti-establishment and populist movements in the US and Europe as “a blip” and “a hiccup” that will inevitably die out. Google, Walker notes, must be on the forefront of battling these tendencies.
“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,” Walker says, noting that the company is figuring out the ways how to respond to the populism tide “before the world comes into this environment of tribalism that’s self-destructive [in] the long-term.”
The leaked video saw Twitter exploding with a torrent of indignation from Trump associates and conservative pundits.
Trump’s 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale urged Google “to explain why this isn’t a threat to the Republic” while calling for a thorough investigation an congressional hearings into the tech giant.
Donald Trump Jr. has also weighed in on the controversial video, suggesting it proves an anti-conservative bias is rife within the company.
Conservative writer and activist Brent Bozell dubbed the video a “smoking gun” that revealed that Google’s top officials are“decidedly anti-Trump” and that there was “no doubt” that the company was acting to enforce the political stance of its leadership.
Some users suggested a link between the revelations from Breitbart, a conservative publication sometimes dubbed Trump’s mouthpiece, and a newly released executive order aimed at punishing election interference.
Reacting to the video’s publication, Google has denied its leadership’s liberal bias.
“Nothing was said at that meeting, or any other meetings, to suggest that any political bias ever influences the way we build or operate our products, “ the company said in a statement, adding that the employees speaking at the meeting were expressing their “own personal views.”
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet at the time, was photographed wearing a “staff”badge at Hillary Clinton’s election night party. Having worked with President Barack Obama previously, Schmidt endorsed Clinton a year before she formally announced she would run for president, promising financial assistance as well as technological support.