News & Politics

Big Tech Employees Think They're Tolerant But Want to Silence 'Dangerous' Speech

Big Tech Employees Think They're Tolerant But Want to Silence 'Dangerous' Speech
Google (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Most Big Tech employees agree that tech firms should encourage viewpoint diversity, but they also support silencing “dangerous” opinions and are likely to support terminating employees for offensive speech outside the workplace. According to one employee, most workers think the far-Left smear outfit the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is “objective.”

“People who think they are being tolerant and promoting tolerance are pushing notions that could enable intolerance,” Garrett Johnson, co-founder and executive director at the Lincoln Network, the organization behind the survey, told PJ Media on Thursday.

The survey included 1,924 Big Tech employees from across the country, a nationally-representative sample. Respondents identified themselves as very liberal (14 percent), liberal (18 percent), moderate (33 percent), conservative (18 percent), very conservative (11 percent), or libertarian (3 percent). Eighty-four percent of respondents said they were in a “technical role,” and the survey included employees from: Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Oracle, Qualcomm, Salesforce, Samsung, Twitter, and more.

More than half (55 percent) said their employer does not promote a political agenda, but 45 percent said their employer does do so.

A vast majority of respondents from all viewpoints agreed with the statement, “Yes, I agree that companies in general should foster a diversity of viewpoints.” Almost every single ideological group favored viewpoint diversity more than by 90 percent. Only those who identified as very conservative dropped below that number, to 87 percent.

Lincoln Network survey graphic of Big Tech employees favoring viewpoint diversity.

Yet many of the same employees also agreed with the statement that “companies should terminate employees when they express offensive views outside the workplace.” Very liberal respondents (62 percent) proved most likely to agree with this, with liberal employees (44 percent) not far behind, but very conservative employees (52 percent) also strongly agreed. About four in ten moderates and libertarians (39 percent) agreed, as did less than a third of conservatives (30 percent).

Lincoln Network survey graphic showing how Big Tech employees would support firing employees for offensive speech outside the workplace.

Big Tech employees proved even more likely to support some kind of censorship, the survey found. Vast majorities of every group besides libertarians agreed that “some opinions and ideas are too dangerous to be discussed openly.” This bodes ill for free speech on tech platforms.

Nearly three-quarters of very liberal employees (73 percent) agreed that “dangerous” speech should be censored, while 64 percent of liberals agreed. Even 63 percent of moderates, 66 percent of conservatives, and 69 percent of those who described themselves as very conservative agreed. Most libertarians disagreed, but even then nearly half of them (48 percent) said some speech should be censored.

Lincoln Network survey of Big Tech employees saying some opinions are too dangerous to be discussed openly.

A self-described liberal warned that “there are no clear boundaries set by the organization to prevent ideological bias. Third parties that used to be respected for setting such boundaries, like the EFF [Electronic Frontier Foundation], are no longer respected, while partisan organizations like ADL [Anti-Defamation League] and SPLC (who I believe push a political agenda) are considered by most employees to be objective.”

The SPLC gained its reputation by taking the Ku Klux Klan to court, but in recent years it has engaged in a defamation campaign against mainstream conservative and Christian organizations. Nonprofits like the Family Research Council (FRC)Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Center for Immigration Studies, ACT for Americathe Ruth Institute, D. James Kennedy Ministries, and Liberty Counsel have found themselves on the “hate group” list, alongside the KKK.

A recent PJ Media study found that while the SPLC claims there are 1,020 “hate groups” in the U.S., the real number is likely less than 335.

Egregiously, the SPLC actually quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church — the binding belief statement for 1 billion people around the world — as proof that the Ruth Institute is a “hate group.” If the SPLC were consistent, it would brand all faithful Catholics as members of a “hate group.”

This branding has real-world consequences. In 2012, a domestic terrorist targeted FRC, aiming to shoot everyone in the building. He later admitted to using the SPLC’s “hate map” to target this organization. The SPLC refused to remove FRC from its “hate map.”

In recent years, tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter have used the SPLC “hate group” list to exclude conservative and Christian organizations. Amazon removed ADF and D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM) from its charity partnership arm, Amazon Smile, and DJKM responded with a lawsuit. Vanco Payments dropped the Ruth Institute over the SPLC label. The SPLC has expressly courted Big Tech, trying to “Change the Terms” of service to exclude “hate.”

If Big Tech employees consider the SPLC reliable, conservatives might be afraid to speak or work at these companies. Indeed, very conservative employees proved most likely to say, “I know someone who did not pursue or left a career in tech because of perceived ideological conflicts with their company.”

Lincoln Network survey graphic of Big Tech employees saying they know someone who did not pursue a tech career because of ideological differences with companies.

Garrett Johnson noted that nearly one in two very conservative employees know someone who did not work in Big Tech because of ideological conflicts.

“There is this ideological refrain: ‘We don’t know why there’s a tension between conservatives and tech,'” the Lincoln Network co-founder told PJ Media. “Well, if half the respondents who work in the tech industry who identify as very conservative point out that there is a clear tention here, of course people who have a limited exposure to tech will be sensitive to this.”

Big Tech employees also identified their religion: 27 percent Catholic, 19 percent Protestant, 16 percent nothing, 8 percent agnostic, 7 percent atheist, 10 percent religious minotirites (Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Mormon, and Orthodox), and 11 percent “something else.”

When asked if they knew someone who did not pursue or left a tech career due to ideological conflicts, large percentages of religious minorities (40 percent), Christians (32 percent), believers in “something else” (33 percent), and non-religious employees (18 percent) said they did. These numbers were not broken up by region, so it could be the case that Christians face more hostility in Silicon Valley while religious minorities and non-religious employees face more hostility elsewhere.

Given the rising animosity toward traditional religious beliefs on sexuality (and the disturbing rise in anti-Catholic bias in Congress), it seems likely conservative Christians and Catholics might be more likely to face animosity at Big Tech firms. The SPLC’s demonizing the Catholic Catechism as expressive of “hate” cannot help this situation.

Conservatives expressing dissent with the liberal culture at Big Tech firms have emerged at Facebook and Google. Yet isolated incidents of censorship against conservatives and Christians continue to pop up. Worldwide evangelist Franklin Graham was blocked by Facebook during Christmas week, in a move described as an “undeclared war on the Christian faith,” a “shot across the bow for all Christians.”

Garrett Johnson told PJ Media he hopes future surveys will delve into the religious data. The Lincoln Network survey from last year, which also found fear and self-censorship among conservatives in Silicon Valley, was not nationally representative, while this survey was.

These surveys are extremely important for Americans to understand how Big Tech employees think, and where censorship comes from. It seems these workers think they are being tolerant, but they are actually silencing dissent, thinking some ideas are too “dangerous” and trusting activist groups like the SPLC.

It is long past time these Big Tech employees question their own worldviews and abandon the lies of the SPLC. Only then can the internet fulfill the lofty goals of free speech and mutual understanding.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.