Alphabet shareholders to vote on breaking up company

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June 18, 2019

Tomorrow, 19 June, Alphabet shareholders will vote on a resolution calling for the company to study a break-up, as its complexity has made it too big to manage. The company has incurred allegations of human rights violations among other risks to shareholder value.

Amplifying the calls, human rights activists will demonstrate outside at least 17 Google offices around the world.

Citing concerns about human rights abuses, anticompetitive practices, privacy violations, data leaks and illegal location tracking, the resolution proposes that Alphabet study alternatives to its current structure that would make the company more manageable and its executives more accountable to shareholders. The motion was submitted on behalf of Alphabet shareholders by consumer group SumOfUs.

Read the shareholder proposal here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1652044/000130817919000205/lgoog2019_def14a.htm#lgooga069

The shareholder resolution also highlights Google’s development of a censored search engine for China, codenamed ‘Project Dragonfly’.

On Sunday, CEO Sundar Pichai signalled that Google had cancelled ‘Dragonfly’, saying that the company has no plans to relaunch in China. The move follows months of public opposition: over 86,000 people signed a petition by consumer group SumOfUs calling on the company to #DropDragonfly, while the Stop Google Censorship coalition sent Pichai four letters – never acknowledged – raising their concerns about ‘Dragonfly’. Activists are concerned about the lack of transparency around the decision, creating no confidence that the company will uphold human rights in future.

Sonamtso, a lifelong activist, organiser and leader with the Tibetan freedom movement, will present the proposal. Sonamtso will speak directly to shareholders about the risks to Alphabet’s business and demand the company stop sidelining human rights.

Sondhya Gupta, Campaign Manager at SumOfUs, said: “Google-Alphabet is in crisis. Straying far from its original motto of ‘don’t be evil’, in the past year alone, the company has failed to get in front of allegations of sexual harassment, racism and gender inequality. It finally appears to have dropped its notorious ‘Project Dragonfly’, but without any transparency or consultation of the communities affected. This way of doing business can’t go on. An overhaul of Google-Alphabet’s management structures, which maximises human rights and forces the company out of its crisis, is clearly long overdue.”

Sonamtso, Campaigns and Communications Director, Students for a Free Tibet, said: For years, China has arbitrarily detained and imprisoned Tibetans for online posts and searches that the government classes as “sensitive”. Google's 'Project Dragonfly' was poised to reinforce this assault on liberty by entirely sidelining marginalized people's voices. Now Sundar Pichai has clearly stated that censorship-free internet is an "important condition" for operating in China, but seemingly has not considered the even more harmful cybersurveillance implications of Dragonfly. Instead of dismissing the potential human rights abuses its products could facilitate as a ‘hypothetical situation’ it needs to address those impacts head on.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. Alphabet’s AGM will take place on Wednesday 19 June in Sunnyvale, California.
  2. Spokespeople are available for further comment, both in Sunnyvale and remotely.
  3. Demonstrations will take place outside Google’s offices in at least 17 cities in at least 10 countries. Those confirmed are: Australia (Sydney), Canada (Toronto), France (Paris), Germany (Munich), India (Delhi, Mumbai), Mexico (Mexico City), New Zealand (Auckland, Wellington), Sweden (Stockholm), UK (London), US (Cambridge, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle)

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  4. Read the full text of Alphabet’s proxy statement for shareholders here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1652044/000130817919000205/lgoog2019_def14a.htm
  5. Read the SumOfUs shareholder proposal here: https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1652044/000130817919000205/lgoog2019_def14a.htm#lgooga069
  6. The Stop Google Censorship coalition is a coalition of Tibetan, Uyghur and Chinese rights groups who have joined with digital tech and ethical consumer specialists to oppose Google’s development of Dragonfly. To find out more, visit: https://stopgooglecensorship.online/
  7. Read the letters from Stop Google Censorship coalition here: https://tibetnetwork.org/google-where-is-your-response/
  8. View the SumOfUs petition calling on Google to cancel ‘Project Dragonfly’ here: https://actions.sumofus.org/a/google-cancel-project-dragonfly-1