On Friday, Google issued a new set of “community guidelines” for employees of the company.
“Community guidelines exist to support the healthy and open discussion that has always been a part of our culture,” states the first paragraph. “They help create an environment where we can come together as a community in pursuit of our shared mission and serve our users.”
Among the latest guidelines are statements such as: “be responsible,” and “be thoughtful,” as well as “respect each other.”
Further, the guidelines read:
While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not. Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.
Avoid conversations that are disruptive to the workplace or otherwise violate Google’s workplace policies.
If something should arise that might be viewed as a violation of the policies in place at Google, the guidelines state that managers “are expected to address [such] discussions … ”
The document also addresses demeaning language: “Don’t troll, name call, or engage in ad hominem attacks — about anyone. This includes making statements that insult, demean, or humiliate (whether individually or by reference to groups) other employees, our extended workforce, our business partners, or others (including public figures), or that violate other standards of conduct or policies against harassment and bullying.”
The guidelines note that employees must be careful about the potential dissemination of private company data.
Google’s latest set of guidelines are a revised version of a document from last year in which “trolling, name-calling, and ad hominem attacks” were prohibited. The document also contained more generalized policy regarding respect and avoidance of “discussions or behavior” that are “disruptive.”
These revised guidelines come on the heels of several controversies in which the tech giant has been involved, the most prominent of which was the firing of engineer James Damore.
In 2017, Damore authored an internal memo, titled: “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.” The 10-page document, which hit a nerve inside the company and was eventually leaked, posited that “differences in distribution of traits between men and women” could be a factor in the lack of female representation in tech. Damore went on to address potential solutions to the issue. The former Google engineer also wrote about the ways in which he believed the company was oppressing dissenting viewpoints.
The TL;DR version posted at the top of the document states:
Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.
After the memo leaked, Damore was fired from Google for allegedly “perpetuating gender stereotypes.” In a statement following the termination, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in part:
First, let me say that we strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it. However, portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.
Damore proceeded to file a lawsuit against Google for discrimination, eventually moving to settle “through arbitration” in October of 2018, reports Bloomberg.
Google and YouTube (which was acquired by Google in 2006) are coming under intense scrutiny as more and more conservative outlets and content creators are alleging discrimination on the basis of political ideology.
PragerU, a YouTube channel that features conservative educational content, has filed a lawsuit against the video platform for alleged demonetization and restriction of videos.
According to a statement on PragerU’s website, the channel filed the suit in the “United States District Court for the Northern District of California to stop Google and YouTube from unlawfully censoring its educational videos and discriminating against its right to freedom of speech.”
Here’s a video in which an attorney representing PragerU details the case: