Google warns employees: Be nicer to each other, or face disciplinary action

Over the past year, Google has been embroiled in a boatload of scandals centered on the way its employees treat each other. The company has now taken its first steps to put the kibosh on one underlying cause of these scandals: the company’s internal, employee community message boards.

(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez, File)

On Wednesday, Google confirmed on Twitter that it released new “guidelines” this week for employees about what is and isn’t considered okay behavior on these boards. Most of them seem like common sense, including rules about thinking before you post and treating others with respect.

But the rules also pack a punch. Employees are warned that if they behave badly, they could face discipline. Over-the-top behavior is defined generally as posting material or comments, or making such comments in person, that doesn’t align with the company’s values or that “are disruptive to a productive work environment.”

Google is not shutting down its internal message boards, which are moderated by volunteers, the Wall Street Journal’s Douglas Macmillan reports. The search giant is, however, making it clear that the boards are officially no longer a free-for-all. Employees who start a discussion group are empowered to delete or remove over-the-top posts.

These new community standards have their roots in the 2017 scandal, when Google fired James Damore after one of his posts to the internal boards caused a national uproar. He argued that women are less suited to engineering than men, biologically speaking — an idea that’s been fiercely refuted by experts — and that the true problem with Silicon Valley is how it treats conservatives, a minority political affiliation in the Bay Area.

Tensions flew after that, on the boards and elsewhere. Lawsuits filed in the wake of the incident included messages posted on internal message boards by employees where people threatened to blacklist other employees. Some employees were “doxed,” their personal details, like a home address, leaked as a way to incite retaliatory behavior.

More recently, there was an employee uprising at Google, in which employees pressured the company not to work on projects for the military. Things got so heated that Google CEO Sundar Pichai bowed to the mob and promised, in its way, to never help the military build artificial intelligence-powered weapons.

However, one person close to the company said that the discussions on the boards regarding military contracts were actually largely civil and respectful, and would have been compliant with these new guidelines.

In any case, this latest uproar is still causing fallout. As Business Insider’s Greg Sandoval reports, one of Google’s star engineers is now on the hot seat: Dr. Fei-Fei Li who is leading its all-important artificial intelligence unit, is under scrutiny for her role in defending Project Maven, a project between Google and the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, employees have been told they will be held accountable if their posts to the internal boards cause scandals, wind up as evidence in lawsuits, or otherwise impact other employees and the company.

To be sure, the last year of scandals aren’t the first time Google employees have talked about the good, bad and ugly going on on these message boards. For instance, Google’s Memegen is infamous. It’s an internal site where employees create and share memes, many of them irreverent or political.

Way back in 2013, in fact, a Google employee involved in a discussion on Hacker News about the downsides of Google’s culture, described it like this: “There’s also the ones who think they’re still in college and don’t understand simple things such as being mature and respectful with your fellow Googlers. The latter you can see spending a lot of time posting passive aggressive memes on memegen.”

Here are the part of the new guidelines that Google tweeted out.

Mobile company Orange Botswana digitalizes Botswana schools

GABORONE, One of the biggest mobile companies in Botswana, Orange has taken an initiative to digitize school curriculum for primary level and provide the content to government school teachers.

Speaking at the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Orange, Ministry of Basic Education (MoBE) and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) on Wednesday, Patrick Benon, the company Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said that his company strongly believes in bridging the digital divide and leveraging on technology to improve access to education.

“At Orange, we are strong believers in bridging the digital divide and leveraging on technology to improve access to education. We believe that it is truly important to give and enable all children access to education, provide them with material and equipment that will make learning easier,” Benon said.

The MoU states that MoBE will provide the national curriculum for primary schools for content development while MLGRD will be responsible for making available the schools chosen for the programe as well as ensure the safety of the digital equipment in the schools.

The signing marked the beginning of the company’s initiative of digital schools through the Orange Foundation which involves the donation of digital technologies to schools especially primary schools in rural areas.

The first phase of the drive will be a pilot of the initiative in 5 primary schools which will each receive a digital kit comprising of 50 tablets and pouches, 2 servers, 11 multi-socket adaptors, 2 dust resistant cases with padlocks, 1 projector and 1 screen while the teachers will be trained on how to facilitate the use of the gadgets.

After the successful implementation of the pilot, which starts next month, the Foundation will roll out the digital kits to 25 more schools bringing the total number of schools to 30, which they expect to be done within the duration of 5 years.

An average of 500 students per school are expected to benefit from the program meaning that at the end of the program 15,000 students will have benefited from the program.

Collie Monkge, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Basic education said his ministry realizes that it would not manage to digitize all schools alone thus private and public partners like Orange can help them go a long way in making the technologies accessible to students.

Zimbabwe Starts $1.5 Billion Hwange Power-Plant Expansion

Zimbabwe has started the $1.5 billion expansion of its Hwange power plant, which should take 42 months to complete, the technical director overseeing the project said.

“The additional 600 megawatts which we will generate here obviously means we will move towards self-sufficiency,” Zimbabwe Power Co.’s Joshua Chirikutsi said in an interview Wednesday in Hwange, about 600 kilometers (375 miles) west of the capital, Harare.

Zimbabwe’s power utility is meeting about half of the country’s 2,200-megawatt electricity requirement. It relies on imports because existing units at Hwange have fallen into disrepair. Upon completion, the two new units will add 600 megawatts to the existing 920-megawatt plant, the country’s biggest.

The facility needs 240,000 metric tons of coal a month but suppliers haven’t been meeting the order value because the utility doesn’t consistently meet payments. The situation is set to improve, with Zimbabwe Power Co. due to get support from the nation’s central bank to make foreign-exchange payments, Chirikutsi said.