Google to Tone Down Message Board After Employees Feud Over War in Gaza

For nearly 14 years, an online message board called Memegen has served as a virtual water cooler for Google employees.

Memegen has been a place for employees to offer blunt critiques of their bosses, to share gallows humor about job cuts or joke about getting notes from their parents to excuse them from returning to the office after the pandemic.

But Google executives, after watching employees snipe about the war in Gaza in recent months, are making big changes to turn down the temperature on their company’s beloved message board, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

One of the most significant tweaks to Memegen will be the removal of a virtual thumbs-down. Well-liked memes rise to the top of Memegen based on those votes. Unpopular ones quickly disappear from view. Another change will be the removal of metrics that allowed people to see how popular their memes have become.

Google said it was making the changes, which take effect later this year, based on employee feedback that said thumbs down votes make workers feel bad, and the metrics made the message board feel too competitive. But some employees said they worry the changes will censor their free expression and turn Memegen from a real-time gauge of worker sentiment into a dull corporate message board.

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. More than 4,000 employees liked a recent post summing up why they’re so protective of the forum: “The 5 minutes I spend on Memegen before starting my work are the best 2 hours of my day.”

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