May I have a word?

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis - Jonathan Bou­quet

The shift­ing pat­terns of English: test­ing times in Sil­i­con Val­ley Look, I know th­ese are volatile times for the tech gi­ants of Sil­i­con Val­ley. There are the on­go­ing tra­vails at Face­book and the world­wide de­mand that Mark Zucker­berg faces the mu­sic on his com­pany’s per­ceived un­healthy in­flu­ence.

Share prices yo-yo wildly. In the space of just a few hours last month, Face­book, Ama­zon, Ap­ple, Net­flix and Google lost a col­lec­tive $172bn in value. Google em­ploy­ees have also turned mil­i­tant, with staff walk­ing out at 50 lo­ca­tions in protest against ha­rass­ment and dis­crim­i­na­tion within the com­pany.

In re­sponse to th­ese claims, Sun­dar Pichai, Google’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, wrote: “As CEO, it’s been per­son­ally im­por­tant to me that we take a much harder line on in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour… Over the past two years we have ter­mi­nated 48 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 13 se­nior man­agers and above, for sex­ual ha­rass­ment.” As I say, volatile times in­deed, but isn’t top­ping just a lit­tle excessive for what is ad­mit­tedly an un­pleas­ant trait?

Mind you, it wasn’t a good week for the com­pany in an­other di­rec­tion, when trail­ers for a video game were posted on YouTube, owned by Google. Called Cost of Free­dom, the game is set in a Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp. At least the de­vel­op­ers took the videos down, though quite why they dreamed up the game in the first place is any­one’s guess.

Mean­while, in Ger­many, Jens Spahn has launched his cam­paign to suc­ceed An­gela Merkel with a scathing at­tack on her refugee pol­icy. He says: “The ‘white ele­phant in the room’ is the ques­tion of mi­gra­tion.” Mmm, per­haps some­thing was lost in the trans­la­tion. Still, it’s noth­ing on the pachy­derm that I once en­coun­tered in an­other news­pa­per: “The ele­phant in the room that dare not speak its name.”

An ele­phant… in a room.

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