Google’s refusal to remove ‘ex-gay’ app raises red flags about the influence of extremist groups

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California
Google headquarters in Mountain View, CaliforniaPhoto: Shutterstock

Historically, Google is known for celebrating diversity and inclusion.

In 2018, the career website GlassDoor, listed Google as Number 3 in its list of “20 Companies That Champion LGBTQ Equality Hiring Now.” The company has an internal group, the Gayglers, that “is comprised of LGBT Googlers and their allies.”

The Google Diversity website claims, “The group [the Gayglers] not only leads the way in celebrating Pride around the world, but also informs programs and policies, so that Google remains a workplace that works for everyone.”

Conveniently, there is no mention that Google is currently hosting a toxic “pray away the gay’ app at its online store that specifically targets LGBT youth for conversion therapy. When Apple, Microsoft and Amazon were informed of the apps contents, they swiftly deleted it.

So, what’s with Google’s silence and foot-dragging?

Attention Gayglers: It’s time to step up and confront management about Living Hope Ministries’ “ex-gay” app before your company’s reputation as LGBT-friendly is severely damaged. It’s great that you attend Pride, but how about helping to eliminate prejudice? My organization, Truth Wins Out, has very publicly been fighting to delete this app since December and we haven’t heard one word from your group or the company.

By any standard, the app in question is heinous.

It brazenly compares homosexuality to an addiction caused by “deep-seated wounds.” It casually trashes the rich and fulfilling lives of most LGBT people by claiming it “can help homosexuals leave their destructive lifestyles.” Living Hope repeatedly belittles transgender people, saying they suffer from “gender confusion.”

The app disrespects gay Christians by proclaiming that they “teach a false gospel” and that homosexuality “falls short of God’s best for humanity.” The group promises to walk “individuals toward God and away from bondage.”

In a Medium post, writer James Finn explains that the app refers to same-gender sex as “sordid” and that homosexuality is caused by a disease like diabetes. It claims that men who have sex with men are behaving like “dogs” that have no control over instinctual sexual behavior. It says that lesbians experience same-sex attraction because they don’t trust men and because they allow themselves to be possessed and controlled by other women.

So why on earth would Google risk its reputation and future by providing a platform for a vile app that unquestionably promulgates homophobia? Why would the company refuse to comment to major media outlets such as Newsweek, the Telegraph and the New York Post?

Clearly, the actions of Google seem illogical and irrational because their peculiar behavior is inimical to their pro-LGBT brand.

Sadly, we can’t rule out the possibility that Google has come under the sway of far right wing organizations.

News reports earlier this month revealed that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have been meeting with far-right extremists to try to stem criticism they are biased against conservatives. This includes the Family Research Council (FRC) and its President, Tony Perkins, who allegedly is advising Facebook. FRC is a Southern Poverty Law Center designated hate group.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Google contributes to more than 200 third party groups, including the Heritage Foundation, National Cyber Security Alliance, and Americans for Tax Reform (Grover Norquist’s radical group)… Executives see the outreach to a cross section of groups as a form of political protection, to defend against the allegation that they are biased against conservatives, a complaint lodged repeatedly last year by President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.”

Is it possible that Google has not acted with corporate responsibility because it has cut a deal with far-right wing extremists who see nothing wrong with “ex-gay” child abuse programs? If this is true, the fight over this one app has much broader reach and significantly wider implications for LGBT people. It is one we must fight and win.

It is important to remember that these tech companies sought out these extremist groups in the first place because they lied and said that the tech companies discriminated against conservatives in search results and algorithms. I can understand why they fear backlash by right wing media and powerful conservative politicians.

But is Silicon Valley’s answer to false accusations leveled by disreputable groups, who spit out lies like snowflakes in a blizzard, to embrace them and solicit their dishonest advice? Are we entering a new phase with tech companies where we will have to battle false equivalency, with the advice of LGBT organizations given the same weight as hate groups?

If companies, such as Google, are going to start using the lives of LGBT youth as collateral damage in their efforts to cozy up to hardcore conservatives, they better plan for the fight of their lives.

Of course, we don’t for sure know Google’s internal machinations and don’t know exactly why the company is refusing to offer the courtesy of an explanation for keeping a destructive “ex-gay” app available for minors. But we do know what they are doing is as outrageous as it is head scratching.

By any measure, peddling a “pray away the gay” app that is a recipe for LGBT youth depression and suicide, is not a “gay-friendly” policy, and stands in stark contrast to everything Google has previously told us it stands for.

Wayne Besen is the Executive Director of Truth Wins Out. The organization is currently campaigning to get Google to remove the app.

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