Google's former head of human rights paints a brutal picture of its dealings with China

Kathryn Krawczyk

This Democratic Senate candidate's past is a big indicator of his possible political future.

Ross LaJeunesse joined Google in 2008, and eventually rose to become its head of international relations before he was pushed out of the company. Along the way, he saw the company withdraw from, and then plunge back into, the highly censored online world in China — along with several examples of racism, sexism, and homophobia, he wrote in a Medium post published Thursday.

LaJeunesse, who is challenging Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) for her seat, said that when he left former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office for Google, he felt the company's "don't be evil" mantra was true. He "executed" Google's 2010 move to stop censoring search results in China, and said he was "intensely proud of the principled approach the company took in making this decision."

But in 2017, LaJeunesse said he was "alarmed" to learned Google was developing a censored search product for China. And when Google announced an AI initiative in Beijing later that year, LaJeunesse said it was "clear to me that I no longer had the ability to influence the numerous product developments and deals being pursued by the company."

"It was no different in the workplace culture," LaJeunesse continued, describing an "all-hands meeting" where employees were divided into groups labeled "homos," "Asians" and "brown people." Read more here.

LaJeunesse said he was forced out of the company in 2019, though Google told The Washington Post it was because of a "reorganization of our policy team." "We have an unwavering commitment to supporting human rights organizations and efforts," Google also said.

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