Every year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) —an LGBTQ civil rights group —publishes a corporate equality index rating companies on how well they treat LGBTQ people. Typically, Google scores high on the list and receives a 100 percent rating, until now.
HRC has made the decision to suspend Google from its 2019 corporate equality index after the company failed to remove a conversion therapy app.
In footnotes of the report, HRC wrote that it had become aware of an app distributed in the Google Play Store supporting the practice of conversion therapy. HRC went on to say:
“Such practices have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for decades. Minors are especially vulnerable, and conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. Pending remedial steps by the company to address this app that can cause harm to the LGBTQ community the CEI rating is suspended.”
— Human Rights Campaign
The app, called Living Hope Ministries, is the subject of a campaign on Change.org calling for its removal with over 140,000 signatures. Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft have all removed the app from their platforms, but Google is still hanging on.
Conversion therapy is the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. As outlined by the Trevor Project, the process often involves “shaming, emotionally traumatic or physically painful stimuli to make their victims associate those stimuli with their LGBTQ identities.”
Google’s refusal to remove the app falls in line with past company behavior. Recently, both Google and Apple came under fire from human rights organizations and members of Congress for hosting Absher, a Saudi app that tracks women.
The company’s silence on both Absher and Living Hope Ministries should be read as a position on its own. Tech companies have to be held accountable for the apps they host on their platforms, especially when they promote something as dangerous as conversion therapy. Google is no exception.
Suspending Google from the corporate equality index may have consequences for the company because it is used for recruitment. Currently, it’s unclear if Google will decide to remove the app.
Axios reported that the HRC and other groups who have requested to meet with CEO Sundar Pichai have gone unanswered.