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Google sets new boundaries for internal debate

Google sign against a cinderblock wall over a refrigerator
Photo: Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

Trying to balance an open company culture against the pressures of Trump-era politics, Google last week rolled out new rules for internal debate, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The same dynamics that turned many public internet forums into free-fire zones between culture war antagonists and red state/blue state zealots have begun to roil the worlds inside Silicon Valley's walled gardens.

The background: Google found itself at the center of a firestorm last year after software engineer James Damore wrote a memo arguing that gender differences could explain why women are underrepresented in tech. Damore's memo went viral, spurring protests inside the company, and Google ended up firing him, which spurred further protests.

The rules: According to the Journal, the new community guidelines represent Google's first effort to set limits on expression in its halls and online discussion forums. They're broad, based on Google's values, open to interpretation, and designed to funnel conflict to human moderators.

The bottom line: Corporations aren't governments, but when they get large enough, they end up grappling with the same kinds of conflicts nations face, between free speech and free inquiry on one side and civility and respect on the other.