• Google is changing Memegen, an internal message board, after arguments over the Israel-Hamas war.
  • The thumbs-down feature, which functions similarly to Reddit, is being removed, as well as metrics.
  • Google said the changes are in response to employee feedback, but some staffers are upset.

Google is changing an internal message board that employees have used to share memes for over a decade after employees got into heated discussions over the war in Gaza.

The changes, which Google confirmed to The New York Times, include removing the option to thumbs-down a post.

Since its creation in 2010, Memegen has been a place for employees to joke or commiserate about the company and its leadership. The meme generator has often been used to gauge employee sentiment, with Google staffers using it to complain about their "corporate overlords" or mock how many AI models the company has launched.

The thumbs-down function works similarly to Reddit, with upvoted memes being pushed to the top and downvoted memes being dropped lower. For instance, the "corporate overlords" post that followed layoffs in January got thousands of upvotes, The Verge reported.

In addition to removing the thumbs down, Google is also getting rid of metrics that show how popular a post is.

Some employees are concerned the changes will ruin the message board, a place where Googlers have felt free to speak candidly about the company, with one employee getting 8,000 likes on a post in which they said the point of the changes was to "kill Memegen," according to the Times.

A spokesperson for Google told the Times that the team is "experimenting with some common industry practices similar to what other internal and external social platforms have done."

The spokesperson also said the changes, which will happen this year, were in response to employee feedback, adding that the thumbs down can make people feel bad.

The Times also reviewed an internal Google memo in which moderators said they thought collective thumbs-down votes were a "bullying tactic."

Google did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has been a source of controversy at Google for years.

In 2021, more than 250 Google employees called on the company to terminate contracts with Israel after IDF forces carried out strikes in Gaza. In 2022, a Jewish Google staffer quit and said she and others were being retaliated against for their support of Palestine. Shortly after, over a hundred Google employees gathered to protest Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion cloud-computing contract with Israel.

Google employees previously told the Times that tensions had risen at the company after October 7, with some expressing concerns over antisemitic posts and others feeling like they are not able to speak out in support of Palestine or criticize Israel.

Last month, Google fired an employee who staged a protest against Israel and Project Nimbus at a conference in New York City. Google said the employee was fired because they disrupted the presentation of a coworker.

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