LIFESTYLE

Google's new .SOY domain: Code for segregation or source of Latino pride?

Google’s recent announcement of its new .SOY domain, meant to appeal to Latinos, has drawn criticism and jest from a number of places.

The Mountain View, California-based tech giant says .soy (Spanish for "I am") offers Hispanic consumers, brands and publishers "a place to build, create and share culturally relevant Web content." A number of Latino organizations, including the Hispanic Heritage Fund and Ella Institute, have switch over to the .soy domain name, but some media critics have asked the question of why the tech giant has created a space that segregates Latinos online.

“If Google really wants to reach Latinos in a meaningful way, .soy probably isn’t the answer,” Alanna Nuñez of Cosmopolitan magazine wrote. “Why doesn’t Google (I’m looking at you too, Apple and Intel, both of whom have also come under fire for a lack of diversity) examine its own hiring practices? “

Just weeks after internal reports released by tech giants like Apple and Facebook found that these companies rely primarily on white and Asian men for their top-paying jobs, a Working Partnerships US’s report released in August found that while the workforce in California’s Santa Clara County – home to dozens of tech companies – is 28 percent Latino or African-American, they make up just a tiny percentage of professionals inside technology companies — and most work in the service industries on the campuses of the companies.

Four out of 10 security guards, seven out of 10 janitors and three-quarters of grounds maintenance workers in Silicon Valley are black or Hispanic, the report found.

Some say this disconnect between the tech world and the Hispanic community has now translated into the. SOY domain that is being called out as segregation.

“How can a company based in parts of the United States where the overwhelming majority of the country’s 50 million Latinos live, be so border-walled off from the physical, geographic and cultural reality just outside its gates, so self-absorbed in the virtual world where it is king?” Roberto Lovato, a Visiting Scholar at the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research wrote for Latino Rebels. “Another equally pointed question has to do with us, specifically with where and how Latinos relate to the Digital Darwinism that is (again) shuffling and redefining the social and economic positions of Latinos and us all.”

Despite the controversy, there are still a number of influential Latino-specific companies who have signed on for the .soy domain name. Along with the Hispanic Heritage Fund and Ella Institute, Republica, a Miami-based cross-cultural advertising and communications agency, recently made the move from .net to .soy.

"It's a domain that is focused on the incredibly large U.S. Hispanic market and caters to both individuals and brands," Jorge Plasencia, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Republica, told Efe. "As Hispanics, our identity is so important that when Google announced this initiative we didn't hesitate to become partners in its launch."

EFE contributed to this report.

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