Google Tightens Speaker Rules Amidst Controversy


Google has issued new rules for inviting speakers to its offices after cancellation of visit by controversial Indian historian

Google has reportedly introduced rules for inviting speakers to the company’s offices, after a visit by a controversial Indian historian was cancelled at short notice earlier this month.

An email outlining the policy to managers late last week said certain talks could risk damaging the company’s public image and asked staff to “consider whether there’s a business reason for hosting the speaker and if the event directly supports our company goals”, according to Reuters.

The policy asks staff to avoid topics that could be “disruptive or undermine Google’s culture of belonging” and reminds them that speakers may not advocate political candidates or ballot measures.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai at Google's I/O developer conference, 2018. Credit: GoogleNew process

The company said it was unifying and clarifying an existing array of rules.

The new policy requires speaker proposals to be submitted for approval by a “cross-functional” review team at least 12 weeks before an event.

“We’ve always been proud to host external speakers at Google, as they provide great opportunities for learning and connection for our employees,” Google said in a separate statement.

It said the updated review process would “ensure these events are useful and contribute to a productive work environment”.

Caste controversy

SInce its days as a start-up Google has cultivated an open and informal work environment, but as it has grown into a tech giant has had to increasingly deal with clashes within its staff over issues related to politics, race or gender equity.

The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) labour organisation is currently pressuring Google to name the Indian caste system in its non-discrimination policies.

In April the company cancelled a talk on India’s caste system by author Thenmozhi Soundararajan, who advocates for those disadvantaged by caste prejudice, following criticism by an internal Hindu group.

At least one of the critics suggested hosting a talk by historian Rajiv Malhotra to present an alternative point of view, but Malhotra’s talk was cancelled on 10 November, a day before he was scheduled to speak at Google’s offices in Silicon Valley.


Some staff had complained to senior management about Malhotra, according to Reuters, while the AWU noted Malhotra had described homosexuality as a medical condition and Islam as a destructive force.

Malhotra told Reuters he supports marginalised communities but opposes “politicising of bias in ways that divide societies and make them vulnerable to foreign colonisation”.