New rules at Google tackle trolls in the workplace

Free expression? Sure. Trolling? No. The company reportedly takes steps to cool things off in its internal forums for employees.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read
A woman walks past a Google sign at company offices.

Google has been swept up in the current culture wars.

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Google is reportedly having trouble keeping debates in its internal forums troll-free.

The company set up new rules last week and said it would discipline any employees discriminating against or attacking colleagues or engaging in discussions that are "disruptive to a productive work environment," according to a Wednesday report from The Wall Street Journal.

The guidelines are aimed at keeping Google's intranet platforms safe from trolling, the deliberate use of offensive language online to provoke strong reactions, the Journal said.

This is the tech giant's first set of rules geared toward keeping online discussions across the company under control, according to the Journal. But the rules are broad and up to the company's volunteering moderators to interpret.

Google fired software engineer James Damore last year for writing a controversial, 3,300-word memo that argued biology plays a role in women not being as successful as men in the tech industry . Damore then filed a lawsuit claiming he was fired because he's a white and conservative male. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in January that he didn't regret dismissing Damore but that "it played out in a polarized way."

A month later, Google fired another engineer, Tim Chevalier, who said he was sent packing because of liberal comments he made in the company's internal messaging forums and on the Google+ social network. A company spokeswoman told CNET during this lawsuit that though free debate is important for Google, "like any workplace, that doesn't mean anything goes."

The search giant has encouraged free expression over the years and gave its 80,000 employees a digital platform for sharing and debating ideas, the Journal said. But its employees have reportedly attacked each other over social and political beliefs, and insiders see the phenomenon as a disruption to productivity and conducting business.

Google didn't respond to a request for comment on the Journal report.

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