Did 600 Google Employees Sign Petition Decrying Google-Verizon Proposal?

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Gayle Laakmann
Did 600 Google workers sign a petition critical of the company? That claim is still being, shall we say, assembled...
On Friday, organizers of a petition against the controversial Google-Verizon joint proposal told SF Weekly that 600 Google employees had lent their signatures to the cause.

Today, however, the net neutrality activists at Save the Internet were backing, ever so slightly, away from their earlier claim.

Craig Aaron, the organization's managing director, told SF Weekly that the number of potential Googlers who'd signed the petition was "in the hundreds." This was reiterated by spokeswomen Yolanda Hippensteele and Jen Ettinger.

But ostensible Google workers didn't exactly have to submit a DNA sample or CV to stake their claim to employment at the Bay Area Internet mammoth. On the petition is a box reading "Are you now, or have you ever been a Google employee?"

Ettinger told SF Weekly her organization was in the process of "vetting and verifying" the names of all those who filled out "yes," an operation that will take an indefinite amount of time. But even if all of those names do check out, this classification was broader than initially sold to the public. For a former Google employee to take a stand against the company's actions is not exactly the same as a current worker doing so. What's more, many former employees likely see the Google-Verizon proposal differently than current staff. One of the main complaints "Save the Internet" has about the proposed Google-Verizon pact is that it would lead to fabulously wealthy companies such as Google being able to buy more favorable treatment from internet providers, which would lead to consumers abandoning smaller companies which don't have the cash to play that game.

A number of former Googlers who have left the fold are now likely working for or with smaller companies and/or start-ups.

Ettinger told SF Weekly it isn't certain if the names of the purported Google workers who signed the petition will be made public. But, even if they are, former Google employees we reached said signing such a petition likely won't lead to retribution from company management.

"As far as organizations of 20,000 people go, Google is a pretty transparent place," says one former longtime employee. "Every Friday, either Larry or Sergey" -- company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin -- "or some subset of upper management gets in front of everybody and says 'What are your questions?' Everything is fair game."

Those discussions have been about such lofty subjects as net neutrality and internecine issues including "lack of water bottles -- when someone removed some SmartWater, it was like a coup! ... I haven't seen anything so formal as an online petition, but my impression would be that this isn't that surprising or scandalous, internally at least."

Of course, the company might look less favorably on public dissent -- if you're an old fuddy-duddy.

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