Technology shapes societies, of course, but what impact do technology companies have on community values?
A lot, in one sense, as society adapts to their technologies, be it internal combustion engines, electricity or search engines. But the connection between technological change and societal change is generally subtle. Companies mostly aim their messages at increasing sales. Google, however, just decided to push for direct social change around gay rights, which has nothing to do with its core advertising business.
Google on Monday said it would back a “Legalize Love” campaign around the world aimed at promoting basic rights for gay people outside the office as well as in it. (The campaign was initially misreported as supporting gay marriage.)
At a conference on Friday, Google’s European head of diversity and inclusion, Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe, outlined the campaign and, as reported in Britain’s Gay Star News, called it good for business:
“We operate in very many countries and have a very globally mobile workforce. We have had a number of instances where we have been trying to hire people into countries where there are these issues and have been unable to put the best person into a job in that country.
Conversely we have had to move people out of countries where they have been experiencing homophobia to a different location. And we are also having to support staff in those countries in terms of relationships with the government and homophobia they are experiencing outside of the office.”
Google’s campaign will start in countries where it has operations. Its initial focus will be on countries with anti-gay laws or strongly homophobic cultures. The first two are Poland and Singapore.
Chris Matyszczyk, a CNet writer who has lived in the two countries, predicts that it will run into different issues in both. He suggests that, in Singapore, people stay closeted for pragmatic reasons. Thus Google and other companies might best effect change by threatening to pull their offices out of Singapore. In Poland, the power of the Catholic Church creates a social dynamic that is not driven by material concerns.
The British technology publication The Register noted that homophobes who want to switch search engines may run into trouble, as its main alternative, Bing, is run by gay marriage-supporter Microsoft.
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