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Google employees are being targeted with this ad urging them to consider their role in making search rankings more fair

“Share this message and discuss it with your colleagues.”

Two people walk past a neon “Google” sign Spencer Platt / Getty
Shirin Ghaffary is a senior Vox correspondent covering the social media industry. Previously, Ghaffary worked at BuzzFeed News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and TechCrunch.

Many campaigns that push for regulating Google are aimed at regulators. But here’s one that’s targeted at the company’s collective conscience: Its employees.

A coalition called Focus on the User, led by Yelp and TripAdvisor, has started “significant social media ad buys” targeting Google employees with a new video, according to a coalition rep. The ad asks Google workers to consider their role in making Google’s search-ranking practices more fair.

The video claims that Google gives “preferential treatment to some of its own content,” such as local listings. (Thus the interest from Yelp and TripAdvisor.) The argument: Instead of Google showing the most relevant results, the company sidesteps its own algorithm to show you only “what Google wants you see” — which is often Google’s own content.

It’s an issue that Yelp has taken up publicly with the search giant for years; it recently filed a complaint with the EU’s antitrust watchdog. Google, though, is still Google: Massive, profitable and growing.

Google has publicly denied similar claims. But the video calls for Google employees to “share this message and discuss it with your colleagues” — and to bring it up at all-hands meetings.

Separately, about a dozen Google employees recently reportedly resigned and thousands signed a letter to protest a new U.S. military pilot program — a sign that its staffers are willing to take action on issues they see as important.

So this appeal to employees is an interesting strategy in a new environment where tech workers are being seen as a potentially weaponizing force to steer the direction of the companies they work for.

This article originally appeared on

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