The Mountain View, Calif. company, is well known for having fostered a very open environment in which its army of workers is encouraged to communicate, disagree and share views on thousands of internal messaging boards and groups. Google, however, is putting new restrictions on political expression and discussion of the company's activity.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai explained the tech giant's new guidelines, which now discourage workers from discussing politics on internal communication forums, in an email to employees Thursday night.
“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,” the guidelines state, as reported by Recode. They warn employees that their primary responsibility is to “do the work” that they’ve been hired to do — “not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.”
Over the last few years, the company has faced waves of internal dissent over projects with the U.S. government and military, as well as accusations of political bias against conservatives from President Trump and other Republicans.
At an all-hands Friday meeting not long after Trump's victory in 2016, co-founder Sergey Brin said he found the results "deeply offensive" and lamented that it was "probably not the most joyous TGIF we have had." Video of that meeting was leaked two years later, which fueled claims on the right that Google is biased against conservatives.
According to Recode, the new policies will prevent employees from making statements that "insult, demean, or humiliate" co-workers, business partners or others, including public figures. Google said those public figures include elected officials like Trump.
In addition, employees will not be allowed to engage in debates that encourage or organize fellow colleagues to vote for or against a specific candidate. The company is also reportedly creating a central flagging tool where employees will be able to report one another's comments as inappropriate -- and those in violation could face disciplinary action.
The rules also will prohibit employees from sharing "need-to-know" information or making "false or misleading statements" about Google's products or business. Over the last few years, at least two projects that prompted a backlash, Project Maven and Project Dragonfly, became publicly known only because of employees who leaked the information to reporters.
The company will try to educate employees before disciplining them, according to Recode.
A Google spokesperson gave Fox News the following statement via email on Monday night:
"Community guidelines exist to support the healthy and open discussion that has always been a part of our culture. They help create an environment where we can come together as a community in pursuit of our shared mission and serve our users. Working at Google comes with tremendous responsibility. Billions of people rely on us every day for high-quality, reliable information. It’s critical that we honor that trust and uphold the integrity of our products and services. The guidelines are official policy and apply when employees are communicating in the workplace."