Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Class action roundup

Liability roundup

Google (per)plex, continued

Nick Gillespie interviews me for the Reason podcast on the Google/James Damore story. I get to make a point there wasn’t space for in my USA Today piece: the indirect government pressure on employers to police speech to avoid litigation mirrors the pressure put on classroom content at universities under Title IX and similar laws.

I also appeared on Guy Gordon’s radio show on Detroit’s WJR, and wrote a piece for Cato at Liberty on a dispute between Google and the federal government on employment discrimination and employee privacy that would probably be getting more attention if the memo story weren’t consuming all the oxygen in the room.

Meanwhile, Conor Friedersdorf asks Google CEO Sundar Pichai: could you clarify which passages of the memo tripped the wire, and which were OK? [earlier] And a piece by Nick Wingfield in the New York Times recalls part of the backdrop to the memo dispute: years of callout campaigning in tech to force political dissenters off of boards and out of jobs.

Legal incentives and the Google Memo firing

I’ve got a new piece at USA Today on the background of why hostile-environment law creates incentives for a company like Google to discipline or fire an employee like James Damore, who wrote a now-famous memo on the the firm’s gender policies.

Now, just as two decades ago, many outsiders look at a firing-over-speech and say it’s just a private firm’s decision. No public policy or First Amendment implications, right?

And it’s true that sometimes an employer’s decision to fire would have been made even with no legal thumb on the scale. The disruption caused by an instance of speech, or co-workers’ or managers’ dislike for it, would have been enough. Other times legal considerations did make the difference. Hard to tell the two cases apart!

So as a way of evading responsibility system-wide it’s kind of brilliant. Those who write laws can blame private actors’ decisions. The private actors in turn can feel as if their hands were tied given the legal reality they might face.

And the piece concludes:

Google is currently being sued on sex discrimination claims, which means lawyerly caution would be at a zenith on whether to let its corporate culture be portrayed in a future courtroom as tolerant of sexist argumentation.

To sum up: don’t assume Google acted unusually. Under current legal incentives, what just happened counts as normal.

Full piece is here. Here’s the text of the memo, and here’s Conor Friedersdorf on how early coverage of the memo misrepresented its contents. The Jonathan Rauch 1997 New Republic piece I quote in my USA Today article is here; it quotes my 1997 book The Excuse Factory. And I also recommend this take by law professor Erica Goldberg at In a Crowded Theater.

More: Also see @mcclure111 in this ZeroBin post on Google’s legal posture.

“Families of San Bernardino Shooting Sue Facebook, Google, Twitter”

“Family members of three victims of the December 2015 shooting rampage in San Bernardino, California, have sued Facebook, Google and Twitter, claiming … that by allowing Islamic State militants to spread propaganda freely on social media, the three companies provided ‘material support’ to the group and enabled attacks.” [Reuters, ABA Journal]

July 27 roundup

  • It’s against the law to run a puppet show in a window, and other NYC laws that may have outlived their purpose [Dean Balsamini, New York Post]
  • L’Etat, c’est Maura Healey: Massachusetts Attorney General unilaterally rewrites state’s laws to ban more guns [Charles Cooke, National Review]
  • Appeal to Sen. Grassley: please don’t give up on Flake-Gardner-Lee venue proposal to curtail patent forum shopping [Electronic Frontier Foundation, Elliot Harmon]
  • Oil spill claims fraud trial: administrator Ken Feinberg raised eyebrows at news that Mikal Watts “was handling claims from 41,000 fishermen.” [Associated Press, earlier]
  • By 70-30 margin, voters in Arizona override court ruling that state constitution forbids reduction in not-yet-earned public-employee pension benefits [Sasha Volokh]
  • Google, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood appear to have settled their bitter conflict [ArsTechnica, earlier]

Mike Moore’s Mississippi multitasking

Overlooked tidbit from last month on the doings of former Mississippi attorney general Michael Moore, famed for his role in the great tobacco caper, who’s tight with longtime Mississippi AG and Overlawyered favorite Jim Hood [Jacob Gershman, WSJ Law Blog]:

In February, Google released discovery documents that the company said showed that the DCA [the Hollywood-linked “Digital Citizens Alliance”] paid former Mississippi attorney general Mike Moore’s law firm $180,000 for consulting services “at the very same time [Mike Moore Law Firm] was officially deputized to lead the Attorney General’s so-called investigation of Google.”

See also this 2014 post by Jay Caruso at Pocket Full of Liberty. More on Jim Hood’s role as a cat’s paw for Hollywood against Google here, here, here, and here. More on Hood and Moore here, etc.