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Google employees were told to leave politics at home after anti-Israel protests

On Tuesday, employees staged a sit-in at the company’s offices in Silicon Valley and New York, wearing T-shirts with the slogan “Googler against genocide” and occupying the office of Thomas Kurian, the head of its cloud computing division .

Nine were arrested after refusing to leave.

Google is selling cloud computing and artificial intelligence services to the Israeli military as part of a $1.2 billion (£1 billion) program called Project Nimbus. The company has said it is only providing “generally available cloud computing services” to the project.

Speaking to the protests on Wednesday, Google’s chief security officer, Chris Rackow, said the protests were “unacceptable, extremely disruptive and left colleagues feeling threatened.”

Google has gradually tried to tackle the difficult political debates in recent years. It recently made changes to its internal messaging system to limit arguments over the war in Gaza and discourage political discussions at meetings.

It came amid growing protests over the company’s more controversial work, including an AI contract for the US military and a secret project to build a censored Chinese search engine, both of which have now been abandoned.

The company has also faced employee uprisings over its treatment of women and mass layoffs.

In 2017, it fired an engineer after he distributed a memo opposing Google’s efforts to close the gender gap.

Mr. Pichai’s directive underlines a shift in Silicon Valley, where companies have often tried to foster a “mission-driven culture.”

In 2020, cryptocurrency company Coinbase said it would not allow discussions about politics and social issues at work, and would offer staff compensation if they quit because of the policy. The move was controversial at the time, with executives including Twitter’s then-chief Jack Dorsey publicly criticizing it and dozens of staffers leaving.

Other tech giants, including Facebook’s parent company Meta, have tried to limit political discussions at work.

Google was recently criticized after its Gemini chatbot produced several images of Nazi soldiers and Vikings. Its founder Sergey Brin admitted that the chatbot “in many cases leans to the left.”