They basically run the Internet. Their parent company dwarfs every other corporation on Earth. But they are more terrified of offending the Left than breaking the law.

On Monday, Google decided to trample free expression and possibly flout federal labor regulations. Afraid of viral outrage from the Left, the international corporation fired a software engineer named James Damore for writing and disseminating an unpopular opinion.

In a ten-page internal memo, Damore dared to question the company line on diversity. He asked instead whether biological differences explain why so many more men than women work in Silicon Valley. He argued that by "shaming into silence" different opinions, Google "has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed. And Google proved he was right by firing him.

Google purports to value "honest discussion." And reasonable people should be able to disagree about these things. Google just didn't want the bad publicity of having someone with such ideas on their payroll. But never mind the incongruity or hypocrisy. The more important problem is that litigation is around the corner.

"I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does," Damore told the New York Times.

According to Dan Eaton, an attorney and ethics professor at San Diego University, the engineer certainly has grounds for a case on two fronts. "First, federal labor law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions," Eaton writes.

And second, because the memo was a statement of political views, Eaton says Google may have violated California law which "prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action."

An international corporation with armies of both lawyers, Google knew all this. They decided to take their chances with state and federal law anyway rather than stick up for one of their employees and risk public backlash. That's an incredibly telling decision from a company that has mastered everything from artificial intelligence to self-driving cars.

In short, the tech titan is scared. Not of losing talent. Not of legal fees from the pending litigation. And not of a potential settlement. No, Google just doesn't want to stir up outrage from the left and so they squashed speech.

Since their founding they prided themselves on their corporate motto: "Don't Be Evil." Maybe this would be a better motto: "Don't Be Craven."

Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.