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Google seeks to "Legalize Love"
July 8, 2012 6:01 PM   Subscribe

During the Global LGBT Workplace Summit of July 5 and 6, 2012 in London, Google announced the "Legalize Love" campaign . Launched in Poland and Singapore and eventually intended for every country where the company has an office, it will focus on places with homophobic cultures, where anti-gay laws exist.

Google's Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe states "We want our employees who are gay or lesbian or transgender to have the same experience outside the office as they do in the office. It is obviously a very ambitious piece of work."
posted by Morrigan (90 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome.
posted by Foosnark at 6:03 PM on July 8, 2012


I'd imagine that in Singapore (maybe Poland but I'm less certain) Google would face a huge resistance over "Who do these White Western foreign devils think they are, trying to tell us how to run our culture?!". Well-meaning imperialism? Is there local cultural input at all into this?
posted by divabat at 6:09 PM on July 8, 2012


I mean, never mind legalise gay marriage...you need to work on legalising being LGBTQ to start!
posted by divabat at 6:10 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You'd think the local LGBTQ population would be in favour, for a start...
posted by Dysk at 6:11 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's an audacious move. I'm gay, and a former Googler, and I'm flabbergasted. The cynical part of me wonders how much effort Google will really put into this; it may be more of a statement than an active campaign. The hopeful part of me thinks this is really awesome. Countries want Google to open offices there, I think they have some leverage.

Google has always been gay friendly, from the beginning, and from the founders on down. That part is genuine.
posted by Nelson at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, sure, but from my experience (growing up in Malaysia and being right next to Singapore so we absorbed a lot of their culture) the local LGBTQ communities aren't taken at all seriously - our claims are dismissed as "foreign infiltration" and people get sent to rehab or jail or worse. Marriage isn't even a thinkable option when survival is so difficult, and having the only major advocates be a foreign company may not be so useful especially when there are major cultural clashes.
posted by divabat at 6:14 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm a major Google fangirl, but I think when it comes to places with a history of colonialism and "our culture is more civilised than yours" (e.g. Singapore), this would backfire really badly if there was no local input or consultation. I'm not even sure the economic/financial benefit would really matter as much.
posted by divabat at 6:16 PM on July 8, 2012


Both Singapore, with it's repressive strict laws, and the very Catholic Poland are a tough audience for this, so I commend Google's ambition, but I'm curious as to why they did this when there's a sizeable and loud regressive bunch of homophobes made right here in America!

Why is Google needing to outsource homophobes?
posted by Skygazer at 6:17 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Skygazer: Ha, good point. It's a common argument: "You dare tell us what to do in our country? Go fix your country first!"
posted by divabat at 6:19 PM on July 8, 2012


Good. Laws against sexuality(with all the usual consenting adult qualifications) are like laws against race, ethnicity or religion: wrong, period.
posted by jonmc at 6:22 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


divabat, one of the links said Google explicitly stated the campaign isn't really about gay marriage, so much as tackling the legislation that enables what you're referencing.
posted by Dysk at 6:23 PM on July 8, 2012


Dysk: one of the links says that they're going after Singapore as a prime economic center - but nowhere in any of the links have they talked about cultural expectations.
posted by divabat at 6:26 PM on July 8, 2012


I think it's great that we're all supportive of corporations getting involved in politics now.
posted by BobbyVan at 6:26 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Both Singapore, with it's repressive strict laws, and the very Catholic Poland are a tough audience for this, so I commend Google's ambition, but I'm curious as to why they did this when there's a sizeable and loud regressive bunch of homophobes made right here in America!

Because there are also a lot of pro-LGBT advocacy groups in the US, who arguably have political momentum on their side, whereas there are few groups advocating for that community in Singapore or Poland.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:28 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why is Google needing to outsource homophobes?

If they can collect private data in all countries simultaneously I see no reason they can't fight for (or at least advertize) social justice in all countries simultaneously too.
posted by DU at 6:30 PM on July 8, 2012


anigbrowl: They're there, they just have larger cultural and Governmental hurdles to deal with.
posted by divabat at 6:30 PM on July 8, 2012


I think it's great that we're all supportive of corporations getting involved in politics now.

Like Walmart realizing people will pay more for organic food, lots of other large corporations are realizing that homophobia is bad for business. There's nothing new about corporations lobbying for laws that are good for business.
posted by odinsdream at 6:33 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is great. Next up, I look forward to them paying taxes because they're so involved in local communities.

(Sorry. This is a good thing, I know, and I'll try to turn off my snark impulse now.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:35 PM on July 8, 2012


Like Walmart realizing people will pay more for organic food, lots of other large corporations are realizing that homophobia is bad for business. There's nothing new about corporations lobbying for laws that are good for business.

Can you expand a little on how reducing homophobia directly helps Google's business? Will this help them sell more ads or Nexus devices, or grab additional marketshare from Bing?
posted by BobbyVan at 6:42 PM on July 8, 2012


Can you expand a little on how reducing homophobia directly helps Google's business? Will this help them sell more ads or Nexus devices, or grab additional marketshare from Bing?

Because Corporations are people too.

My friend.
posted by Skygazer at 6:46 PM on July 8, 2012


There's nothing new about corporations lobbying for laws that are good for business.

The objection was not to the novelty.
posted by DU at 6:46 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe Google thinks that being a force for real-world change is a nice way of getting a lot of positive press. Not all corporations are solely focused on the bottom line.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:50 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the real benefit of this is simply normalizing rights for LGBT people. Nothing all wild and crazy, just setting the expectation that a modern business environement -- attracting the outside investment that everyone wants -- includes safety and respect for LGBT employees and their families. I hope other big multinationals set this as an expectation, too.
posted by Forktine at 6:51 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Plus, being known as a vocally progressive company probably helps in hiring the best and the brightest.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:51 PM on July 8, 2012


It still bears questioning: why foreign countries and cultures? Where is the involvement with local activists, many of whom have risked their lives? How will they make this not a case of We Know What's Good For You?
posted by divabat at 6:57 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe Google thinks that being a force for real-world change is a nice way of getting a lot of positive press. Not all corporations are solely focused on the bottom line.

Again, it's refreshing to see on Metafilter such a clear defense of corporate political activism on social issues tangential or irrelevant to their business interests. I look forward to a similar defense of Chick-Fil-A's support of anti-gay groups and corporate-funded organizations like ALEC.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:03 PM on July 8, 2012


I look forward to a similar defense of Chick-Fil-A's support of anti-gay groups ...

Why would you look forward to that, exactly? No one criticizes Chick-Fil-A for involvement in social issues. People criticize Chick-Fil-A for being on the wrong side of said issues.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:06 PM on July 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


Corporations doing good things is not equivalent to corporations doing bad things.
posted by parudox at 7:06 PM on July 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


Can you expand a little on how reducing homophobia directly helps Google's business?

I refer you to this congressional hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which includes testimony from Ken Charles, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at General Mills. His testimony along with others discusses how such discrimination is in fact quite bad for business and employees. As far as I recall, it doesn't touch on the customer aspect, except tangentially.

It's also the first time a transgender person (not Ken Charles) has testified on the issue.
posted by odinsdream at 7:13 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


It still bears questioning: why foreign countries and cultures?

For me, the best case answer would be that wherever they happen to be, they want to be part of the solution rather than (silently, passively) part of the problem.

Of course it remains to be seen how effectively and sensitively they will implement this. But I think that being so suspicious of a 'white man's burden' approach so as to encourage acquiescence to current norms ignores the fact that an economically and culturally powerful outside presence choosing to remain disengaged socially may feel morally 'cleaner' but is actually no less complicit for their apparent passivity - they are just as actively reinforcing existing power norms.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:20 PM on July 8, 2012


Why would you look forward to that, exactly? No one criticizes Chick-Fil-A for involvement in social issues. People criticize Chick-Fil-A for being on the wrong side of said issues.

Because it would demonstrate some intellectual consistency. It's incredibly ironic to see the same people who are irate about things like Citizens United getting excited when Google takes their side on a particular political issue. I'm discomfited by the implicit "appeal to authority" here -- what authority does Google have, and why should we give them that authority? What does Google intend to do with the goodwill it reaps from opposing anti-gay groups? I'm sympathetic to the cause, and support gay marriage personally, but this is not exactly their wheelhouse.

Let's not allow Google to distract us from the issues that do affect their bottom line, like privacy and anti-competitive practices.
posted by BobbyVan at 7:25 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems too subtle by half. Simply replace the button on the right with one that says "Do you feel lucky?" And next to that, a countdown clock (with no explanation provided).
posted by uosuaq at 7:32 PM on July 8, 2012


But I think that being so suspicious of a 'white man's burden' approach so as to encourage acquiescence to current norms ignores the fact that an economically and culturally powerful outside presence choosing to remain disengaged socially may feel morally 'cleaner' but is actually no less complicit for their apparent passivity - they are just as actively reinforcing existing power norms.

As I've mentioned before, issues like LGBTQ rights are often seen as "white people's issues", which leads to persecution of locals that also actively campaign for such issues - using accusations of being foreign ("Zionist" is a favourite) spies or threatening national security. This is a massive safety risk that could harm the very people they're supposedly advocating for.
posted by divabat at 7:39 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Because it would demonstrate some intellectual consistency

Would you mind providing a link to a comment of yours on MeFi where you criticize a corporation for conservative activism?
posted by benito.strauss at 7:47 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


As far as Singapore is concerned, Google already has an office here, but just a small sales office. So possibly they could leverage their existing Singaporean employees. In addition there are some LGBT movements that have been gaining traction recently; perhaps Google might contribute financially to those causes, or offer them services like hosting, etc.

I think the major hurdle for LGBT rights here is that the social climate (especially among the older generation) is still very homophobic; people regularly use the word "gay" as an insult, poke fun of men with feminine behaviour, etc. It'll take a while for people to become more open. I think the Singapore government doesn't really have a particular stand, it just wants to be aligned with the majority of the citizens. For example, consider the case of repealing Section 377A of the Penal Code which criminalizes sex between two men.
posted by destrius at 8:03 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Benito, you're missing my point if you think I'm criticizing Google for taking a liberal position. I think Google is entirely within its rights to advocate for whatever it wants.

Simply put, I find curious the notion that corporate political activism is only legitimate when it's pointed in a progressive direction. Surely you can see the hypocrisy here.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:10 PM on July 8, 2012


Can you expand a little on how reducing homophobia directly helps Google's business?

BobbyVan if you got over your ever-predictable, right-wing knee-jerking (damn, I'm getting hyphen fatigue there), you would realise that there is quite a body of evidence suggesting that diversity is a key component to innovation, business results, and workforce productivity and job satisfaction - and I don't mean all together, I mean separate research demonstrating all those things.

Encouraging a divorce workforce that feels engaged, connected to company values is a no-brainer.

Your characterisation of mefites is - per usual - clouded by your ideological hang-ups. People resented publicity campaigns from Chick-Fil-A etc not because it was a campaign, or politicised, but because it was regressive, morally dubious, and harmful to the citizenry in general. This is none of those things, the comparison doesn't hold up.

Additionally, it's possible to support Google's work on this, and criticise their stance on information privacy. Huge companies are complex and contain multitudes; story-book moral judgments are not necessary.
posted by smoke at 8:13 PM on July 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


It's not hypocritical at all, if you're progressive. Also, political activism is a broad-brush, there's a pretty big difference between a public and open publicity campaign compared to closed-door meetings with no transparency by lobbyists that will actively hurt the public.
posted by smoke at 8:14 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Simply put, I find curious the notion that corporate political activism is only legitimate when it's pointed in a progressive direction. Surely you can see the hypocrisy here.

I think it would help if you said a little more about legitimacy, and why it shouldn't be affected by the direction in which something is pointed.
posted by uosuaq at 8:17 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


bobbyvan, you're certainly not entirely wrong, but I think you're more noting rhetorical sloppiness on people's part rather than actual hypocrisy. Generally people's problems with corporate political involvement is the stances they take, not the fact of their involvement. Some lefty types yell that corporations shouldn't be in politics at all, but that's generally people who haven't thought through what they actually mean---it's consequentalist, rather than an actual statement of principle.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bobby, to be honest I was trying to check for concern-trolling. I was kinda hoping for you'd say "Here you are" and the conversation could move forward.

And I can't get a good handle on your position:
I think Google is entirely within its rights to advocate for whatever it wants.
and
... what authority does Google have, and why should we give them that authority?
don't seem very consistent.


Can you clarify what you mean by "legitimate"? There's a difference between "should be prevented by law from doing" and "opposed by individuals". Voltaire nailed that one with "I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it." I'd bet most people here would say that both Chick-Fil-A and Google should be treated identically by the government. (While I'd also bet we can find someone calling for the government to shut down Chick-Fil-A, I think they'd back away from it pretty quickly.)

/ And as for Citizen's United, I don't believe "political spending" = "political speech" for either individuals or corporations.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What makes me happy about this is that increasingly, for big multi-national businesses, this isn't so much a "progressive" stance as simply a normal part of business stance. They need to attract the best workers, some of whom are LGBT themselves, and many more of whom have LGBT family members and/or friends. It is easier for these companies to be productive and profitable in a context of at least minimal rights for LGBT people.

If it was more what Divabat is describing, a kind of cultural imperialism for no other reason than to say "Our team is AWESOME!!!!", I'd be a lot less excited about this. But I think this is more like wanting your workers to be able to make it to work without being shot, or without being randomly arrested -- just a background part of normal business practices in this day and age.

In a lot of cases, what will undoubtedly happen is the creation of a two-tiered system, where employees (especially US and European employees) of multinationals will have freedom to be LGBT, and host-country LGBT rights will be unaffected. There's a very, very long tradition of this kind of limited tolerance, and you can see it today in the closed off company enclaves all over the world, especially in places like Saudi Arabia. Creating the deep-seated change that will make LGBT people full citizens, with full rights, is a far more difficult endeavor that will need to come from within; I'm not sure there is any country in the world that could claim perfection on this issue.
posted by Forktine at 8:32 PM on July 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Smoke, if you really believe that Google's stance on same-sex relationships is motivated by the economic benefits of diversity (as opposed to earning PR brownie points from elites and government officials to distract from investigations into anti-competitive search practices), I've got some ad-words to sell you. Google would reap much larger economic benefits if it pursued gender diversity around the world with the same vigor.

I can understand it if progressives want to keep corporations out of politics because "they aren't people." That has some logic to it. But if the argument is going to be that corporations should be barred from politics because "they aren't progressive people," that's problematic.
posted by BobbyVan at 8:36 PM on July 8, 2012


BobbyVan: I can tell you that Google's move isn't going to earn them much in the way of "brownie points" from the Singapore Government, if their past treatment of LGBT activism is anything to go by.
posted by divabat at 8:44 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


as opposed to earning PR brownie points from elites and government officials to distract from investigations into anti-competitive search practices

As everyone knows, the sure-fire way to keep politicians on your good side, especially in a Republican-controlled congress, is to take a strong pro-LGBT stance.
posted by odinsdream at 8:46 PM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


What makes me happy about this is that increasingly, for big multi-national businesses, this isn't so much a "progressive" stance as simply a normal part of business stance.

As someone who works for a huge multinational I completely agree, and I think it's fantastic. Agree with the rest of your comment too, about enclaves etc, that's seems to be the case at my employer.

Smoke, if you really believe that Google's stance on same-sex relationships is motivated by the economic benefits of diversity (as opposed to earning PR brownie points from elites and government officials to distract from investigations into anti-competitive search practices), I've got some ad-words to sell you.

Well, you're the expert on Google strategy, Mefites, and diversity, so I guess you'd know. I think there's a straw man here, especially with the Chick-Fil-A example. My recollection is that people were complaining about repugnant morals, and the efforts of Chick-Fil-A to obfuscate their involvement through astro-turfing and shell-groups, right?

I don't really recall a groundswell arguing that corporations shouldn't advocate, just that they should be up front and transparent about it?
posted by smoke at 8:46 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Replace Republican with Socially Conservative, as I realize that's not always a fair characterization.
posted by odinsdream at 8:46 PM on July 8, 2012


I can understand it if progressives want to keep corporations out of politics because "they aren't people." That has some logic to it. But if the argument is going to be that corporations should be barred from politics because "they aren't progressive people," that's problematic.

Okay, I understand now; you're not talking to the other people in this thread. Disappointing, but I can't do much about it. Bye.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:09 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I wish Google all the luck in the world with this endeavor, but countries as backwards as Singapore don't change that easily. It's funny to see the accusations of imperialism, though.

Well-meaning imperialism? Is there local cultural input at all into this?

The local culture is viciously homophobic, to the point of banning artistic works that portray homosexuality as anything other than deviant. Fuck the local culture.
posted by kafziel at 9:29 PM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Simply put, I find curious the notion that corporate political activism is only legitimate when it's pointed in a progressive direction. Surely you can see the hypocrisy here.

People do not object to Citizens United because it allows "corporate political activism" - it is strange that you believe this to be the case.

People object to Citizens United because it allows corporations to channel large amounts of money into political campaigns without satisfactory (to those people) levels of disclosure. This does not seem to relate to what Google is doing here.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:36 PM on July 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


kafziel: Fuck the local culture? So we shall put all the local activists who are working hard to reconcile their cultural background with their sexuality at deep risk of alienation by both sides (if not worse) then? Because LGBTQ culture is purely Western in origin?
posted by divabat at 9:41 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Simply put, I find curious the notion that corporate political activism is only legitimate when it's pointed in a progressive direction. Surely you can see the hypocrisy here.

It's not a matter of being legitimate or not. A corporation (subject to its governing body and rules) is welcome to be pro or anti gay (or whatever) and take the consequences that result. Around here you'll see many people being anti-Chick-Fil-A but it's always (that I've seen) in the form of "don't buy from them because of their practices," not a claim that they shouldn't be able to do said practices.

I can understand it if progressives want to keep corporations out of politics because "they aren't people." That has some logic to it. But if the argument is going to be that corporations should be barred from politics because "they aren't progressive people," that's problematic.

You're veering all over the place. You bring up Citizens United, which was about electioneering, not general political involvement. Only the very naive think that corporations shouldn't be involved in politics, because of course politics has a tremendous effect on businesses. The problem is the concept that corporations have the exact same rights as humans.
posted by Candleman at 9:51 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


BobbyVan, I enjoy the wonderful way in which you derange your worldview to complement the beliefs you've decided arbitrarily to be true. It's delightful to watch simple, straightforward ideas curve so elegantly and so wrongly. Makes me consider how distorted my own mind must be.

In this case, I suspect very, very few people on this site are opposed to corporate action, in the sense that a commercial entity chooses to in some way affect the world. But Google is doing none of those things. They are using their money, in fact, to create an institution in countries with hurtful beliefs that tries to combat that hurtfulness. Perhaps or even probably there's a bottom line they're considering here that somehow benefits from gay people being less hated, but that's not so cynically overriding what this program claims to do that it robs the initiative of all value. They are doing Good Things With Money. And even if I don't like how much money matters or how much people with money control what Good Things (or Bad Things) happen, I can be happy about this and hope that much good comes of this.

Weirdly enough, one of the nice things about NOT being tied to a set of arbitrary combatative beliefs is that I can have many conflicting emotions about general concepts like corporations without its being hypocritical. It's like a cheat code for politically charged discussions. Empathy and humility and nuance is the secret weapon!
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:54 PM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


The local culture is viciously homophobic, to the point of banning artistic works that portray homosexuality as anything other than deviant. Fuck the local culture.

So there was _always_ a local GLBT culture here, not just ye olde Bugis Street which is what all the ang-moh's knew about, but also quarters such as Duxton Hill which are filled with gay-bars. It was always there, merely below the radar, sure, partially because it was repressed into the underground, so to speak.

In the last ten years, however, most of this sub-culture has steadily mainstream-ed itself, so much so that you now have Gay Pride weeks and creative sessions and so on. I once attended a poetry-slam session by local GLBT artists where the Chief Guest was a minister. One of the performers identified herself as a civil-servant in the minister's very own department; that she felt free to not just identify herself as working there, but also felt free to perform at the event in front of the minister should show the extent to which Singapore Inc has begun tolerating GLBT identification. Despite Bugis Street, that I thought was something new; even a generation back, people would have been fired for taking part in such events.

There's a yearly GLBT pride event called Pink Dot SG (because Singapore is a red-dot, for its flag's colours) that's implicitly tolerated, promoted even for tourism.

That said, in the last election, in my local constituency, another government minister did try to cast aspersions on a competing Opposition politician who was openly gay (or at least, everyone in the community knew he was), by asking him to come clean on his "agenda" and that he had some "videos" about him; my impression was that the minister actually lost quite a bit of a support with that move, most actually sympathized with the opposition politician, so much so that the minister finally had to say that he didn't have a problem with homosexuality in general. It's a minor thing in the greater scheme of things, at least as long as Section 377A is in place, but Singapore feels a lot freer and more liberal than before.

As with any other place, the main problem I think are the religious types; like in other parts of Asia (and US too), lots of folks have discovered religion afresh and have become more evangelistic / fundamentalistic than before. It is this constituency that's stopping progress; in many ways, my sense is that the government is wary of taking them on directly. You must understand, Singapore is all about gradual progress when it comes to liberal values; the government is shit-scared of cataclysmic events that it can't control, but is in the game for the really long-term, so it makes these directed steps that lead towards something.

I think the big story as far as LGBT rights is concerned is in families now; you have a young generation that's educated elsewhere and has these notions of personal identities, as opposed to a subsumed national identity, and doing things for the greater good. I know many peers who're clear as to who they are, have discovered loving homosexual relationships, have even gotten their partners to re-locate back to Singapore to be close to them. The story for virtually all of them is how to communicate this with their parents; either they're too diffident in coming out to their parents, or they've come out implicitly, but their parents still haven't fully registered the notion. (Know this otherwise friendly aunty who calls her daughter's lesbian partner as her daughter's "boyfriend", while using female pronouns to refer to her)

Once you have acceptance of same-sex partnerships, there'll inevitably be the question of same-sex unions, which would (should) raise the question of why should we discriminate against same-sex partnerships by not calling them as "marriages".

It's a long way ahead, obviously the speed at which things are changing is sadly frustrating for many, but there is reason to be optimistic. Now, to what extent Google can help the process is an interesting question; I really don't have an opinion eitherways at this point. I'm quite suspicious, though, that they'd grab most of the spotlight over and above, local initiatives such as Pink Dot SG; would be a shame if that happens.
posted by the cydonian at 10:20 PM on July 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


Can you expand a little on how reducing homophobia directly helps Google's business?

It's the same reason that white-shoe law firms and the Big Four professional services firms tend to have perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. Their businesses live or die on how much top-of-their field talent they can retract and retain. If this lets Google pry some rockstar developers or data architects who also are gay away from Apple and Amazon, it absolutely helps their business.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:27 PM on July 8, 2012


What is inconsistent or hypocritical about supporting liberal activism and opposing anti-liberal activism? If you support liberalism (i.e. equal rights and tolerance as opposed to bigotry and discrimination), then you support liberalism, and you support actions from whatever quarters will further liberal goals.

Christ BobbyVan, are you really this oblivious or are you just putting it on?
posted by moorooka at 10:27 PM on July 8, 2012


I mean, it's like some moron saying "you support the US government providing food aid but you don't support them bombing civilians: HYPOCRIT"
posted by moorooka at 10:30 PM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


the cydonian: Thanks for the update in the region. It seems that there and in KL, within the last 5-7 years there has been a lot of change. I remember coming back to KL a few years ago for a youth arts event and marvelling at the options that weren't there when I was a uni student not too long ago.
posted by divabat at 11:32 PM on July 8, 2012


the cydonian: It occurred to me that allowing same-sex marriages in Singapore is a big deal, because it would allow same-sex couples to purchase HDB flats and benefit from the various subsidies. This is a financial benefit that is probably far more than any benefit same-sex couples are denied from in many other countries.
posted by destrius at 11:45 PM on July 8, 2012


It occurred to me that allowing same-sex marriages in Singapore is a big deal, because it would allow same-sex couples to purchase HDB flats and benefit from the various subsidies. This is a financial benefit that is probably far more than any benefit same-sex couples are denied from in many other countries.

Oh yes, absolutely; fantastic point, didn't really think about it myself.

Sadly, it also makes me reverse my earlier optimism into rank cynicism; allowing Duxton Hill is one thing, re-interpreting HDB's "family nucleus to incorporate same-sex couples would be quite a different thing, wouldn't it.
posted by the cydonian at 12:19 AM on July 9, 2012


Sadly, it also makes me reverse my earlier optimism into rank cynicism; allowing Duxton Hill is one thing, re-interpreting HDB's "family nucleus to incorporate same-sex couples would be quite a different thing, wouldn't it.

I think it still depends on the general disposition of society towards such relationships. The government is many things, but definitely very pragmatic and economy-focused, and there doesn't seem to be any economic disincentive in allowing same-sex marriages.

On the other hand, one of the key points of only allowing married couples to buy HDB flats is to supposedly help increase our birth rate... same-sex couples are less likely to contribute in that respect. Perhaps what will happen instead is that HDB changes their rules to require all prospective flat-owners sign an agreement to have a child within 3 years of moving in; that sounds like a suitably Singaporean move.
posted by destrius at 12:29 AM on July 9, 2012


I'd like to see Google export this to their Sub Saharan offices where their financial incentives as an employer offer them disproportionate influence in the local regions.

Oh and thanks for the great comments, divabat, destrius and the cydonian.
posted by infini at 1:23 AM on July 9, 2012


I'm a passionate LGBTQ ally in Singapore right nowstaying at a hotel that basically now covers Bugis Street. This is fascinating. Thanks for the comments, the cydonian.

I had an interesting conversation with a Singaporean business colleague who is in his 50s, talking about how when he visited Boston seeing two gay men walk around holding hands "like they were normal men" it made his hair stand on end, because everyone knows that "in the good old days" gay men did the right thing: got boob jobs and lived as women.
posted by olinerd at 3:38 AM on July 9, 2012


There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the fact of attempting to inculcate one's values into whatever society one lives in. There might be something wrong with the values in question, and there is frequently something wrong with the mode of communication used--military force for instance.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:32 AM on July 9, 2012


As we reach the century mark of the end of an empire, where the sun never set, I hope we can begin to drop the old rules and laws and penal codes, terrible pun intended.
posted by infini at 5:23 AM on July 9, 2012


Shouldn’t Google start with the United States?

I thought corporations’ attempts to influence national policy were frowned upon. Or is it OK when MeFites personally agree with it?

At any rate, Google is the company that’s so pro-gay it induces bystanders at Toronto Gay Pride to sign a photo release.
posted by joeclark at 5:27 AM on July 9, 2012


What gets me is when a corporation gets the 'brownie points' for GLBTQ-positive policies, then keeps an Asian headquarters in a place such as Singapore. I find this highly inconsistent, and worthy of criticism. Google is being more true to stated values in this.
posted by Goofyy at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2012


At any rate, Google is the company that’s so pro-gay it induces bystanders at Toronto Gay Pride to sign a photo release.

What the hell are you on about? If you want to use someone's likeness in publication you need a release. If you are approached about signing such a release, you can opt not to sign it.
posted by odinsdream at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought corporations’ attempts to influence national policy were frowned upon. Or is it OK when MeFites personally agree with it?

Since your language precisely mirrors the language used when exactly the same talking point was advanced above, in a thread you have clearly not read, I am curious as to whether you, BobbyVan and manly, manly Jack Donovan are all dittoing the same source, or whether neurolinguistics is just a lot simpler than neurolinguists usually want us to believe.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:52 AM on July 9, 2012


I have to agree with divabat that Google must be careful to be and seem condescending or imperialistic in this. I know how tiresome it is for Europeans to be lectured about "the wonderful 1st amendment and how awful you are for not having it", and can only imagine how Singaporeans will feel being lectured about LGBT rights. It could turn a lot of people off, and worse, confirm the "foreignness" that some folk suspect it of having.

Further, can we stop talking about Citizens United, that's a US topic and talking about it with regard to non-US things is basically threadshitting.
posted by Jehan at 5:55 AM on July 9, 2012


I look forward to a similar defense of Chick-Fil-A's support of anti-gay groups.

I'm sure people would have no problem with their right to support those groups, but supporting the messages of those groups, bigotry, is not something you're going to see a lot of. Looking forward to defending bigotry would probably go best on some sort of yay bigotry site, which this is not.

Let's not allow Google to distract us from the issues that do affect their bottom line, like privacy and anti-competitive practices.

It won't.

As for local cultures, I'd be shocked if Google didn't take these factors into account.
posted by juiceCake at 5:56 AM on July 9, 2012


What the hell are you on about? If you want to use someone’s likeness in publication you need a release.
Not when photographed in public in a context with no reasonable expectation of privacy. I assume you actually read the linked item, though, rereading your shouted interjection, I’m not sure that assumption is fair.
posted by joeclark at 10:21 AM on July 9, 2012


Since your language precisely mirrors the language used when exactly the same talking point was advanced above, in a thread you have clearly not read
I admire the obvious superiority of any MeFite who can read 66 comments, some 200 words long, all the way through before adding his. If you think every reads entire threads before commenting, you must be new here.

The rest of your comment is off-topic but surely felt good neurolinguistically when you got it off your chest. You have to decide if it’s OK for corporations to meddle in sovereign governments’ policy or isn’t. “Somebody else already said that” isn’t a decision.
posted by joeclark at 10:25 AM on July 9, 2012


I read it! I particularly enjoyed:
And yes, I’m calling them girls.
That's very bold of you.

If you think every reads entire threads before commenting, you must be new here.

Not at all. I am aware that less emotionally self-contained people (I assume the noun you missed out in your haste to respond was "people", or something to that effect) are often so eager to share their passionately held feelings that they are unable to read small amounts of text beforehand.

I'm interested that you are simultaneously belittling the mental exertion required to read 66 comments (which is indeed very small indeed), while acknowledging that it is beyond you. But I guess you're not here to impress people, or you might at this point have looked at the content of the thread and noted that there had already been several responses dismantling the gotcha you are attempting.

My question stands - did you think of that gotcha all by yourself, or are you and BobbyVan drinking from a single rhetorical stream? I am curious about where the messaging is coming from.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:42 AM on July 9, 2012


Is it possible that Google is CYA with these release forms because they may decide to use those images commercially? Perhaps they thought it was better to ask for clear, unambiguous permission rather than risk dealing with a lawsuit (even one that has no merit and would eventually be thrown out or found in their favor)?

Take some random person's photo in a public space, and putting it up in your flickr stream may be treated very differently by the courts from taking some random person's photo in a public space and then using it commercially. I don't know the ins and outs of this, particularly regarding Canadian law.
posted by rtha at 10:43 AM on July 9, 2012


Er, I have asked villagers in random no name you ever heard of spots to sign releases re: photographs (when required). This is not a big deal but SOP



then keeps an Asian headquarters in a place such as Singapore. I find this highly inconsistent, and worthy of criticism.


Ah yes, the difficult to make ethical decision between an officially designated developed nation city state with world class systems and facilities and well connected airport hub, plus who knows what tax breaks and incentives and .... (desperately thinking of any other Asian city)
posted by infini at 10:47 AM on July 9, 2012


(I think the waiver form is probably a derail - I don't think Google is particular exerting any kind of pressure on the Canadian government to recognize same-sex relationships. That would be kind of pushing against an open door, since Toronto recognized same-sex marriages in 2003, ahead of the 2005 Civil Marriage Act)
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:55 AM on July 9, 2012


Not when photographed in public in a context with no reasonable expectation of privacy. I assume you actually read the linked item, though, rereading your shouted interjection, I’m not sure that assumption is fair.

I did read it. They're wrong. Google's publicity department is correct. You cannot take a photo of someone, even in public, and then use their likeness on your print advertisements without serious problems. Google knows this. Random outrage-blog doesn't. They are within their rights to take a photo of someone in public without permission. The photo release is for using that photo, not taking it.

In short: Google is, again, doing the right thing in this situation.
posted by odinsdream at 11:24 AM on July 9, 2012


This and this are the relevant Canadian court cases dealing with personality rights. In short, you need permission to use someone's likeness in a commercial communication. If you look at the release pictured in the Flickr photograph, you'll notice that it relates to commercial exploitation of your image. Chances are that unless you are famous you have very little interest in maintaining control over your image (because nobody is inviting you to enter into exclusive endorsement agreements), but it's better to be safe than sorry. When engaged in commercial photography or video work, it's standard practice to either get a release or give constructive notice in lieu of a release (eg signs on display when entering a private event which will be videotaped). Anyone who is unhappy about signing such a release is under no obligation to do so, and no 'inducement' has taken place in the absence of a threat or promise. In short, Joeclark, you are wrong about this and the subject is in any case a total derail.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:56 AM on July 9, 2012


That's the coolest thing Google did since claiming it Does No Evil.
posted by Twang at 2:30 PM on July 9, 2012


juicecake: As for local cultures, I'd be shocked if Google didn't take these factors into account.

Unfortunately, I've encountered enough Well-Meaning Westerners to be shocked if they do take local factors into account. Why not support local LGBT initiatives (like they do in Sydney for Mardi Gras) rather than try and take the credit?
posted by divabat at 4:29 PM on July 9, 2012


Well, we do have a couple hundred employees in Singapore and way more than that in Asia as a whole, and tons of foreign employees in all of our locations. So it's not just Westerners who would be involved in this, just because it's a Western company.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:34 PM on July 9, 2012


Unfortunately, I've encountered enough Well-Meaning Westerners to be shocked if they do take local factors into account.

How do you know it's going to be all Westerners? Have you met the people in the other countries?

Why not support local LGBT initiatives (like they do in Sydney for Mardi Gras) rather than try and take the credit?

Why not see how their approach works out? Where is the stated goal that they will "take the credit?"
posted by juiceCake at 4:50 PM on July 9, 2012


I haven't seen much that indicates that Google is working actively with local organisations & activists and letting them lead the way. Google is an American company and this initiative is coming from American headquarters - it doesn't seem to be organic to the specific company in question.
posted by divabat at 5:04 PM on July 9, 2012


Google's partners so far include PinkDot in Singapore and Love Does Not Exclude in Poland. Some more partners listed here.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:21 PM on July 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I haven't seen much that indicates that Google is working actively with local organisations & activists and letting them lead the way. Google is an American company and this initiative is coming from American headquarters - it doesn't seem to be organic to the specific company in question.

We're what, a few days into this and I guess what you haven't seen is more than others haven't seen. I think waiting to see how it unfolds beyond the first few days might be useful but if you could provide us where you found out they aren't working with local organizations that would be great to learn as well. Are the organizations they are partnering with fronts or something?
posted by juiceCake at 8:58 PM on July 9, 2012


That's the coolest thing Google did since claiming it Does No Evil.

For fuck's sake, it's "Don't Be Evil," not "Do No Evil." There's a huge difference there.
posted by kdar at 10:57 PM on July 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


As mentioned above, Google has been working closely with the grassroots organisations here in Singapore. They approached PinkDot to offer support, and did so again this year. When I was at PinkDot less than two weeks ago - before this Legalize Love project was announced - there was a sizeable Google contingent comprising locals and foreigners alike all togged out in hot pink Google t-shirts (FB link), picnicking together with friends, family and pets. It definitely didn't feel like an American thing imposed upon from headquarters.

Somehow I feel the Singapore government/populace isn't as suspicious of corporate agendas as they would be of NGOs or individual activists. Corporations speak a language that the government understands, and they wield the economic power that the government is more likely to yield to. Rights-based discourse does not play well with the authorities here at all, and equality and social justice are usually made subordinate to the "common good" (read: economic prosperity and political stability). I'm waiting for the day someone of the same stature as Eduardo Saverin or Jim Rogers publicly decides against migrating to Singapore because his/her same-sex partner wouldn't be recognised and accorded spousal rights in Singapore.
posted by hellopanda at 12:14 AM on July 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I hope they'll bring this to Russia next.
posted by floatboth at 3:12 PM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


In other news: Lesbian Super Pac to spend big in fight for gay and women's rights. Billie-Jean King and Jane Lynch among stars backing LPAC, which says it will back candidates who share its equality mission
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on July 11, 2012


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