by Peter Hasson
Google banned a video explaining Christian teaching on same-sex marriage from advertising on YouTube after backlash from upset employees, according to internal Google communications reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The video was flagged in June 2018 in an internal listserv, “Yes at Google,” which is run by Google’s human resources department, according to those communications and other internal documents, which a source shared with TheDCNF on condition of anonymity.
The listserv has more than 30,000 members and is devoted to policing “microaggressions” and “micro-corrections” within the company, according to its official internal description.
The internal backlash to the video grew large enough to merit a response from a Google vice president, who said the video would no longer be eligible to run as an advertisement, the human resources team announced to the listserv.
Christian radio host Michael L. Brown argues in the video that gay people are welcome as Christians but that, like every other person, they are called to follow Christian teachings on sex and marriage.
Brown has spoken out in the past against “homo-hatred” and “ugly rhetoric” directed at gay and lesbian people by fringe groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.
In the video, he describes same-sex relationships as “like other sins, but one that Jesus died for.”
The belief that sex is meant to take place in the context of a male-female marriage — as argued by Brown — is central to most major Christian denominations’ marital teachings.
Google HR highlighted in the listserv a “representative” comment from an employee who took offense that Brown’s video had appeared as an advertisement on channels operated by gay and lesbian YouTubers, the documents show.
“I cannot see how this can be allowed when the specific idea of LGBT videos is to allow the creators to feel free to share their content and be comfortable that anti-LGBT advertisers would not be attached to their content,” the employee wrote. “This seems very counter to our mission, specifically around PRIDE 2018 timeframe.”
Google’s vice president for product management and ads, Vishal Sharma, agreed that the video was too offensive to air as an advertisement.
“Thank you for raising this very important issue. It means a lot to me personally and those of us working on this across the Ads and YouTube teams. YouTube is an open platform and we support the free expression of creators with a wide range of views,” Sharma wrote in his response, which was included in the listserv.
“But we don’t allow advertising that disparages people based on who they are – including their sexual orientation – and we remove ads that violate this basic principle,” Sharma continued.
“After careful and multiple reviews over the course of a few days, our teams decided to remove the ad in question here as it violates our policy. We’ve communicated this to the advertiser and have been in touch with creators who have been actively engaged on this issue,” Sharma added, again expressing his gratitude for the internal feedback.
Brown first noted in a June 2018 blog post that his video was barred from running on ads.
The episode is indicative of the tension between Google’s liberal office culture and its public commitment to free expression.
Other internal documents previously obtained by TheDCNF showed Google employees melted down after an executive used the word “family” in a weekly, company-wide presentation.
Many Google employees became angry that the term was used while discussing a product aimed at children because it implied that families have children, those documents showed.
Then, too, the internal backlash caught the attention of executives at Google. A company vice president addressed the controversy and solicited feedback on how Google could become more inclusive.
Additional internal communications previously obtained by TheDCNF showed that Google employees debated whether to bury right-of-center media outlets in the company’s search function as a direct response to President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
The Daily Caller and Breitbart were singled out as outlets to potentially bury, those communications revealed. A Google spokeswoman said in response that the conversation did not lead to manipulation of search results for political purposes.
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Peter Hasson is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow Peter on Twitter.