Helena Lyng Blak
5 weeks ago

Google and Gaza: Tensions are Rising Within the Tech Giant as the War Rages On

Claims of bullying, lies, and harassment are emerging within the company and among its employees.
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Once upon a time, Google was renowned for its free, fun, and flexible company culture. The ‘Googleplex’ campus, a sort of utopia in the minds of many aspiring IT professionals.

But following the pressures, political shifts, and worldwide events of the past decade, cracks in the Google image have started to appear. More and more stories of workers, critical of the conditions of their employment have been coming out, and in the general public, trust in the technology industry at large is in decline

And with a politically charged, emotionally complicated large scale war raging, internal tension is beginning to show.

Virtual Watercooler Conflict

One example of such conflict is the story of ‘Memegen’.

Memegen is an internal Google messageboard. The New York Times describes it as a “virtual watercooler”. A digital sphere for employees to share memes, have casual conversations, and joke around.

But as the war in Gaza broke out, so did arguments on the once peaceful platform. Google executives decided to make big changes to the messageboard after receiving an unprecedented amount of complaints over content posted on the board and, reportedly, watching the board more and more frequently descend into bickering.

One key change being made is removing the option of giving posts a ‘thumbs down’, a function similar to mechanisms found on sites like Reddit, which has downvotes, and Google-owned Youtube, which used to display dislikes.

Internal moderators claimed that groups of employees would coordinate ‘thumbs down’ in what the moderators described as a “bullying tactic”.

According to the New York Times, “Google’s message board debate reflects long-simmering tension between Google’s opinionated employees and executives trying to tame the company’s sometimes freewheeling culture.”

28 Employees Fired After Sit-Down Protest

Escalating the tension further, on Thursday, April 18, Google announced it had dismissed 28 employees after they had participated in a protest against its $1.2 billion cloud computing contract with the Israeli government named ‘Project Nimbus’.

On Tuesday, the group ‘No Tech for Apartheid’ occupied Google offices in California and New York in a 10-hour sit-in protest.

“Physically impeding other employees' work and preventing them from accessing our facilities is a clear violation of our policies, and completely unacceptable behavior,” said Google in a statement according to Reuters

However, in a statement, No Tech for Apartheid claims that Google “indiscriminately fired over two dozen workers, including those among us who did not directly participate in yesterday’s … protests.”

The group argues it has the right to peacefully protest without facing “retaliatory” layoffs from the company. The group further alleges that Google is lying to its workers, the media, and the public when it claims that Project Nimbus is “not directed at highly sensitive, classified, or military workloads relevant to weapons or intelligence services.” The group argues that reporting made by TIME has proven the opposite.

Before market open on Friday, Google’s stock was down 1.27% for the week, but up 12.83% year-to-date. 

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