If Google — and the tech world more generally — is sexist, or in the grips of a totalitarian cult of political correctness, or a secret hotbed of alt-right reactionaries, the consequences would be profound.
Google wields a monopoly over search, one of the central technologies of our age, and, alongside Facebook, dominates the internet advertising market, making it a powerful driver of both consumer opinion and the media landscape.
It shapes the world in which we live in ways both obvious and opaque.
This is why trust matters so much in tech. It’s why Google, to attain its current status in society, had to promise, again and again, that it wouldn’t be evil.
Compounding the problem is that the tech industry’s point of view is embedded deep in the product, not announced on the packaging. Its biases are quietly built into algorithms, reflected in platform rules, expressed in code few of us can understand and fewer of us will ever read.
But what if it actually is evil? Or what if it’s not evil but just immature, unreflective, and uncompassionate? And what if that’s the culture that designs the digital services the rest of us have to use?
The technology industry’s power is vast, and the way that power is expressed is opaque, so the only real assurance you can have that your interests and needs are being considered is to be in the room when the decisions are made and the code is written. But tech as an industry is unrepresentative of the people it serves and unaccountable in the way it serves them, and so there’s very little confidence among any group that the people in the room are the right ones.