Google Changes Open Culture Amid Internal Turmoil Over Politics

In a radical departure from how Google has operated in the past, on Friday the company put restrictions in place on the type of conversations it will allow employees to have during work hours. 

Once operating with an open and outward culture, Alphabet's search company has struggled with internal and external accusations of political bias. The company is now asking employees to eliminate talk of internal activities, politics and other non-work-related topics in an effort to restore order. 

The message to stifle the banter throughout the company came from Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who sent an email to employees explaining the company’s revised community guidelines.

The guidelines for employees, with the first version published in June, were posted on internal message boards, according to a media outlet. The guidelines include specific sentiments about employees not speaking about initiatives unless they are certain they have accurate information.  

"Don't assume you have the full story," the guidelines read, according to reports. "And take care not to make false or misleading statements about Google's products or business that could undermine trust in our products and the work that we do."

Google co-founders have been outspoken among employees about their political views. In a “thank God it’s Friday” meeting shortly after the 2016 election, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said: “Myself as an immigrant and refugee, I certainly find this election deeply offensive and I know many of you do too. It’s a very stressful time and it conflicts with many of our values.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai echoed the sentiment during the meeting, saying “most Googlers are very afraid,” as the country goes through this process.

Since then, numerous former Google employees have spoken out against the company and its political views. Most recently, former Google engineer Zachary Vorhies went public with claims of election manipulation and political bias. He released confidential documents on topics ranging from censorship and fake news to politics and machine learning.

For the past couple of years, President Donald Trump has attacked Google for allegedly showing bias against conservative views in search engine query results. In a tweet on August 2018, Trump wrote that Google search results for “Trump News” appear to be rigged.

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