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SF Pride without Google and Facebook: LGBTQ decides

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KeYou

Date: 02.01.2020

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The question raised is quite typical when conservatives are attempting to introduce various restrictions towards LGBTQ community. While being an important issue worldwide that is not the case to be discussed this time. When it comes to San Francisco, the city enjoys the reputation of being the most LGBTQ- friendly one in the US as well as has the longest history of celebrating diversity and inclusion. The year 2020 is somewhat special as the community marks the 50th anniversary of holding annual Pride Parade. Being one of the major cultural events in SF in particular and the Bay Area in general, it attracts millions of participants and allies from the US and overseas.

 Not surprisingly, tech giants headquartered in the area have been capitalizing on the event. Google and Facebook have encouraged their LGBTQ employees to participate in the event on behalf of the company. At the same those companies generously sponsored SF Pride Parade for a while thus making contribution to diversity and inclusion.

While doing that, IT giants also maintained policies that casted doubts in their true support of the community. To make their concerns sound 7 members of San Francisco Pride, a non - profit organization, put forward an initiative to ban Google and Facebook from participating in Pride Parade this year. The move was inspired by several former Google LGBTQ employees including Tyler Breisacher and Laurence Berland. Berlan was fired after he attempted to arrange workplace as he wished on the grounds of violating company's data security policies.  To quit his job at Google was not a spontaneous decision for Breisacher. Contrary, his concerns in company's policies gradually raised with time. It all started from a controversy between YouTube and Carlos Maza, gay producer, that happened earlier last year. Maza was harassed by a conservative comedian Steven Crowder. At the time YouTube refused to delete offensive comments citing its internal policies. If is worth noting that YouTube has already changed its hate speech and harassment policies following Maza's case. The point of no return for Breisacher was achieved later on when Google sponsored Conservative Political Action Conference. Such contracting actions undoubtedly raise questions of whether IT giant truly shares the values of diversity and inclusion. In the statement issued Google hit back all the allegations. "Google has been a proud supporter of San Francisco Pride for over a decade. We’re saddened that seven members, including a recently fired employee, decided to recommend banning Google, YouTube, and our employees from supporting this important community organization. SF Pride has over 300 members and a separate Board that makes the ultimate decision on participation; we’ll continue to work with the San Francisco Pride Board and its broader membership on next steps," said company's spokesperson.

Now, what's wrong with Facebook? The case was brought by Chuck Ramsey, former Sonoma County Pride President. What caused Ramsey's rage was Facebook user comment equating Pride and Confederate referring to both of them as "evil" AND Facebook refusal in removing the comment. "I am more concerned about Facebook's position at this point than I am about the original commenter's post," said Ramsey. "I also do not think it is appropriate to have a Facebook contingent marching in SF Pride parade if this is the best they can do for our community."  Breisacher also supported the move. "With Facebook, they have plenty to point to — the real names policy, Cambridge Analytica," Breisacher said. "There is plenty to talk about there." It is expected from Facebook to clarify the case, as for millions of its LGBTQ users and allies using social network may become extremely unsafe.

Coming back to the vote of San Francisco Pride members on the ban it is worth noting that the whole body if members accounts to 326 so that 7 votes seem to be an absolute minority. Nevertheless, they should be heard as no harassment should be left without prosecution. To clarify the case, the SF Pride Board of Directors will meet on February 5, 2020. The decision to be made is whether the vote was legally binding for the organization. At the same time, Carolyn Wysinger, President of Board of Directors of SF Pride has already commented the case. In particular, she mentioned the vote should be non-binding as no quorum was present. Repulsing this statement Berland claimed that the vast majority of the board was elected without quorum. However, quorum was not the only reason Wysinger referred to. She'd rather claimed organization bylaws backing the vote to be non-binding. If was, however, impossible to figure out what articles did she refer to as the bylaws are not publicly available. The overall situation remains complex and requires immediate solution. Nevertheless, it is obvious that whatever decision will be made the difficulties for LGBTQ community will arise. Either the community will be deeply divided or new sponsors will have to found. Maybe, it is time for Google and Facebook to intervene in order to prevent the celebration to be ruined?