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Google is reportedly monitoring staff emails for 'disruptive' language after 400 employees set up a union

Alphabet & Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Google CEO Sundar Pichai speaks during Google I/O 2016
  • Google is monitoring employee emails for 'disruptive' language as internal tensions spill out into public, The Telegraph reported.
  • Employees overseeing internal email discussions have been asked "to undertake training in how to moderate them", according to the newspaper.
  • The move comes just days after disgruntled staff members launched the Alphabet Workers Union, one of the first groups of its kind in Silicon Valley. 
  • Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email (mcoulter@businessinsider.com). Reach out using a nonwork device.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Google is reportedly asking its staffers to scrutinize emails for "disruptive" language as disgruntled workers in the US and Canada double down on their plans to unionize.

Employees running internal email discussion groups have been asked "to undertake training in how to moderate them", enabling them to flag sensitive or controversial comments, according to the Telegraph

The firm has also reportedly reminded employees its meeting rooms and other spaces should be used for work purposes only, days after the Alphabet Workers Union made itself known

Around 400 Googlers launched one of the first "white-collar"unions" in Silicon Valley last week, with members saying they want to promote inclusivity, transparency, and more ethical standards. The membership number has increased to more than 600.

The aim is to help Googlers pressure leadership on projects or behaviors they perceive as being unethical, after internal outcry about Google's participation in a Pentagon autonomous drone program, among other issues.

"This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers," Nicki Anselmo, program manager at Google, said in a statement, describing how staff have "seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively."

In an op-ed for The New York Times, union executives Parul Koul and Chewy Shaw said Google's structure "needs to change."

"Alphabet continues to crack down on those who dare to speak out, and keep workers from speaking on sensitive and publicly important topics, like antitrust and monopoly power," they wrote.

"For a handful of wealthy executives, this discrimination and unethical working environment are working as intended, at the cost of workers with less institutional power, especially Black, brown, queer, trans, disabled, and female workers."

Google's comments about inflammatory email comments come after the firm's AI ethics co-lead Timnit Gebru said she was fired following a dispute over a research paper. Gebru said she was explicitly terminated over an email she sent to an internal company group, airing her frustrations with senior leadership over the research paper dispute.

While the union was in the works long before Gebru was ousted, spokesperson Raine Serrano said the event caused a "hockey-stick growth" in signups. 

A Google spokesperson said: "Community guidelines exist to support the healthy and open discussion that has always been a part of our culture. The guidelines are official policy and apply when employees are communicating in the workplace."

Are you a current or former Googler with more to share? You can contact this reporter securely using the encrypted messaging app Signal (+447801985586) or email (mcoulter@businessinsider.com). Reach out using a nonwork device.

Read the original article on Business Insider




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