Google has updated its Community Guidelines that signal a change in the company culture.
First and foremost, the updated memo reminds employees that “Working at Google comes with tremendous responsibility.”
It then says this:
“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.”
This is slightly in contrast to what Google CEO Sundar Pichai said two years ago when the company infamously fired an employee who (also infamously) suggested a certain inequality between male and female employees:
“So to be clear again, many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this [expressing their views in the workplace – Ed.] and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions.”
However, even if the latest update to the Community Guidelines might sound like a far cry from Pichai’s words, the new policy is very much in line with what the company has been doing for some time. After all, they did fire that guy for speaking his mind.
It doesn’t necessarily mean Google is clamping down on the freedom of expression among its ranks, but the tech giant is certainly ready to shed its image of an idealistic free-thinking Silicon Valley startup. Moreover, Google’s stance on censorship in general remains unclear. At the very least, the company is performing a balancing act between free speech and protecting users from harmful parts of the internet. At the very alleged most, Google is working with the Chinese government on the system that tracks individual users’ searches and links them to their phone numbers.