At work, I recently attempted to run Google ads for an educational tool that promotes teacher diversity. One by one, Google marked my keywords as limited, not eligible, or paused them altogether. As I investigated I found that Google was flagging and suppressing keywords about diversity and race in education. 

Google paused ads or marked them ineligible when we used the keywords “how to support teachers of color,” “racial diversity in education,” and  “creating diversity in the classroom,” among others. 

According to theGoogle Ads Helppage, “an ad will be marked ‘Eligible (limited)’ when Google Ads policies (common examples includeAlcohol,Copyrights,Gambling,Healthcare, andTrademarks) prevent certain types of ads from showing.” Apparently, alongside alcohol and gambling, diversity in schools is now against Google Ads policy. 

Google is the most widely used search engine on the internet, performing 93% of all global searches, and this responsibility requires accountability. Blocking ads designed to make these resources accessible is anabuseof this power.  

As debates about critical race theory grow more prominent in elections, education, and cultural discourse, users are turning to Google for information. People are searching for answers, but Google has made itself the judge, jury, and executioner of the internet.

More than that, people’s Google searches are informing the way that they vote and engage in politics. This became especially clear after Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin won his election in Virginia. In the days after the gubernatorial election, Google Trends and Axios reported that searches for critical race theory were either “high” or “very high” in each of Virginia’s 11 districts, according toNewsweek

As we barrel towards the 2022 midterm elections, critical race theory is not going anywhere. In fact, it is likely to be one of the most important issues on the ballot. However, as our students and schools seek diversity and representation, Google has placed barriers on this valuable information. 

By making information more difficult to access,  Google has unwittingly  suppressed the experiences of various marginalized groups. The resulting ignorance allows  vicious patterns of discrimination to repeat themselves. Between the George Floyd protests, the spike in anti-Asian violence, and the striking impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, people’s eyes have finally begun to open. The way that racist structures perpetuate the cruelty towards diverse populations can’t be ignored any longer.

We are struggling to crawl our way out of the darkness of ignorance, but this age of understanding starts in education, at all levels. The hope of a new future starts when we properly educate and influence society. The empathy and connection that stems from diversity in education is what will allow us to prosper as a nation. Without it, we will only continue to regress. 

People are searching for ways to educate themselves and make these changes. However, by placing barriers on this valuable information, Google is insisting that we shut our eyes and resign ourselves to the status quo. 

The internet promised an era of accessibility, education, and connection. By suppressing keywords that acknowledge different experiences and perspectives, Google is undermining society’s choice to normalize diversity. The separation of information divides us, and it allows people to remain in their comfortable echo chambers. 

In 2020, in the wake of protests against the murder of George Floyd, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai outlinedthe company’s commitments to racial equity. Pichai writes

“Creating products for everyone is a core principle at Google, so our product teams will work to ensure that all users, and particularly Black users, see themselves reflected in our products.” 

Google also promised to establish anti-racism educational programs for employees, which is a start. If our schools are unable to teach the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, our workplaces have a responsibility to do so. However, these trainings must be more than merely symbolic. Bringing in experts to teach about racial history and structural inequalities is the first step of many. 

Trainings encourage the self-reflection necessary for true allyship, but diversity is a choice that we must make every day. Even when it is difficult. Especially when it is difficult. If your workplace refuses to make the hard choices, they are culpable in the mess that we find ourselves in today. 

Corporations continue to make grand, empty pledges like these for the sake of appearance. If a company benefits from the social rewards of standing up for what is right, then they also take on the social commitment of following through. This is especially true when you are the number one search engine in the world. You have an obligation to be better, and it is our job as users to hold you accountable. 

It is easy to make a promise. It is easy to look away. It is easy to turn a blind eye. But it is Google’s responsibility to ensure that important, meaningful resources and information aren’t buried by politics or controversy, and that is not always easy. 

Search on.