A highly-anticipated town hall meeting inside Google was canceled today due to the employees’ concerns around online harassment. The all-hands meeting was intended to address the controversy around an internal memo that argued women were underrepresented in tech due to innate biological differences. “Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be ‘outed’ publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall,” wrote CEO Sundar Pichai in a letter to employees.
The cancellation of the town hall meeting caps off nearly a week of escalating anxiety around the targeted harassment of various Google employees. Very shortly after Motherboard first reported the existence of a controversial memo circulating inside Google, the memo’s author was identified as James Damore. (Damore was fired on Monday). Since then, various corners of the internet have targeted Googlers who have been openly critical of the memo.
On Tuesday, a 4chan-related Twitter account posted screenshots of fourteen Twitter profiles of Google employees, ranging from rank-and-file engineers to Sundar Pichai himself. Every Googler targeted was either a woman, trans man, or a man of color. This tweet may not have been the origin point of this list of Googlers, but it was spread widely.
Danielle Brown, only recently named the VP of diversity at Google, was included in the first set of eight screenshots. By Monday, she had already locked her Twitter account after receiving an onslaught of abuse.
That same collection of eight screenshots made its way onto former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos’ Facebook on Wednesday.
The targeting of those specific Googlers might have been the work of outsiders, but anxieties are running high inside the company because of the publication of screenshots from the internal Google+ on alt-right channels. On Tuesday, Gizmodo reported that a meme depicting whistleblowers being beaten was being shared on an internal meme generator.
On Sunday, alt-right blogger Vox Day published screenshots from the internal Google+, showing employees criticizing the Damore memo. On Monday, Breitbart published an even larger set of internal screenshots. Names and profile pictures were not redacted. "What really gets me is that when Googlers leaked these screenshots, they knew this was the element of the internet they were leaking it to," a former Google employee tells The Verge. "They knew they were subjecting their colleagues to this type of abuse."