Google will launch its "Legalise Love" campaign at a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) conference in London today, firstly targeting Singapore and Poland to decriminalise homosexuality and campaigrights the recognition of same-sex couples.
The company explained on its website that it is calling to eliminate homophobia and decriminalise homosexuality around the world.
"At Google, we encourage people to bring their whole selves to work. In all of our 60 offices around the world, we are committed to cultivating a work environment where Googlers can be themselves and thrive," the company said. "We also want our employees to have the same inclusive experience outside of the office as they do at work, and for LGBT communities to be safe and to be accepted wherever they are."
According to Dot429.com, the first targets of the campaign are Poland and Singapore.
"Singapore wants to be a global financial centre and world leader, and we can push them on the fact that being a global centre and a world leader means you have to treat all people the same, irrespective of their sexual orientation," Google's head of diversity Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe is reported to have said.
As a tech giant, Google has the ability to be much more influential in pushing for decriminalisation than foreign governments. Its influence is enormous through its search engine, Gmail, Android and countless other Google services. Countries that would boycott Google for advocating the decriminalisation of homosexuality would face cutting their citizens off from a lot of services that they use each and every day.
Not to mention that it would be difficult to find suitable alternatives, as most of Google's rivals adopt similar positions.
The same concept stymies the boycotts that are encouraged by right-wing groups like the Australian Christian Lobby , which does not want same-sex marriage legislation — currently being considered in Australia — to go through. It is unlikely to be passed at this stage, despite coalition MPs like Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaking for it.
IBM came under fire from the lobby group last year, when it withdrew advertising from an online opinion website that published an anti-same-sex marriage article.
On the other side, Australian coffee chain Gloria Jean's also recently found itself in hot water for donating money to the Australian Christian Lobby. But boycotting a coffee franchise is easy. Google, along with other tech giants, finds itself in a position where advocating same-sex marriage is not only easy to do because it has popular opinion on its side, but those who are against it will also find it difficult to boycott it.
That's why Google is in the best position to encourage Singapore to decriminalise homosexuality, and will be in the best position to weigh in on marriage issues farther down the track in Western countries.
But while I'm all for this particular move by Google, it is a little frightening that one company can have such power. If Google ever truly abandons its "do-no-evil" motto, we're in real trouble.