Google has long been known for its anything goes, speak-your-mind culture. That may now be on the chopping block.

On Friday, the search giant issued a new set of "community guidelines" that represent a major shift. Banned behaviors now include name-calling, political debates that are "disruptive to the workplace," and disclosing certain internal Google conversations to the public.

"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 read. "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."

Employees will be able to flag internal messages that violate company guidelines to a newly created moderation team. The company's updated policies don't ban talking about politics at work. They do require managers to address conversations that become disruptive.

Google's internal message boards have been notorious for the wide-ranging nature of their subject matters--from politics to sports and everything in between--and are even referenced as a common reason employees choose to work at the company. The public disclosure of conversations on those message boards has partially led to major changes within the company, including the ending of forced arbitration for all employee disputes, a censored search engine project for China, and a plan to augment U.S. military drones with artificial intelligence.

These policy changes could inhibit such employee activism going forward. "Cultures of political correctness ironically can become unsafe places to work," David Logan, a senior lecturer on workplace management at the University of Southern California, told the Wall Street Journal on Friday. "People need to be able to discuss what's going on in the world. Communities are where you do that, and the community where people spend most of their waking time is at the office."

Published on: Aug 26, 2019