Free Speech: Google censors employees to keep itself out of the headlines

Google has manipulated search results for political topics and embraced censorship over unfettered free expression

Wednesday 28 August 2019 - Google has implemented a set of new rules for its employees, cracking down on political discussion inside the company.

The new rules, which were posted publicly, urge Google employees to avoid 'disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story'.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai

The guidelines prohibit Google employees from making statements that 'insult, demean, or humiliate' a range of individuals, including 'other employees, [Google’s] extended workforce, [Google’s] business partners, or others (including public figures).'

Google is also establishing a dedicated team to moderate internal discussions, as well as a 'central flagging tool' that will allow Google employees to report potentially policy-violating comments from their colleagues.

The ban on insulting public figures marks a sharp turnaround for Google, whose own co-founder described the election of Donald Trump as 'very offensive' last year.

Google has been subject to repeated controversies arising from the political statements and activities of its employees. The company was condemned by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) during her successful campaign for Tennessee’s Senate seat in 2018 after an employee compared her to a 'terrorist'  in an internal discussion thread.

Other discussions include an internal smear-campaign against Heritage Foundation president Kay Cole James, who Google employees accused of 'homophobia' and 'exterminationism.'

Google’s former Director of U.S. Public Policy, Adam Kovacevich, described the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) as a 'sideshow circus.' Other Google employees described the conference as a platform for 'hate' and 'anti-queer politicians.'

These leaks, alongside others showing Google’s manipulation of search results for political topics, embrace of censorship over unfettered free expression, and blacklisting of conservative news websites have led Republican lawmakers, as well as President Trump, to accuse the company of rampant political bias.

Editor's comment - Google's crackdown on free speech has not gone unnoticed, and one option is for the Trump administration to bring in anti-trust laws to break up Google's monopoly on the Internet. Google may argue that it is a private company, but when it takes over the role of censorship, then in legal terms it becomes a public body, and is subject to very different rules and regulations.

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