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  • Writer's pictureMartha Pena

Meta won’t let staff discuss topics like abortion, gun control and vaccines at work by Amanda Silber

Meta employees were told that they should not discuss sensitive issues like abortion, gun control, pending legislation and vaccine efficacy at work. Fortune reported on these changes, citing a leaked internal memo from Lori Goler, head of people at Meta. TechCrunch confirmed the report with a Meta spokesperson.

“As Mark mentioned recently, we need to make a number of cultural shifts to help us deliver against our priorities,” Goler wrote in a company memo, per Fortune’s report. “We’re doing this to ensure that internal discussions remain respectful, productive, and allow us to focus. This comes with the trade-off that we’ll no longer allow for every type of expression at work, but we think this is the right thing to do for the long-term health of our internal community.”

Meta took a similar stance in June, when a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked. According to a document that the New York Times obtained at the time, Meta said that “discussing abortion openly at work has a heightened risk of creating a hostile work environment.”

“We deeply value expression, open discussion and a company culture built on respect and inclusivity,” said Kadia Koroma, a Meta spokesperson, in an email to TechCrunch. “We’ve updated our employee expectations to provide direction around what is appropriate for our people in the workplace, so that we can reduce distractions while maintaining an environment that is respectful and inclusive and where people can do their best work.”

Meta employees who are required to discuss these topics to do their jobs are exempt from the policies. These guidelines don’t extend outside of the workplace.

As a company, Meta is in a period of financial tumult as its metaverse investments fail to pay off. At the beginning of the year, Meta stock traded at around $330 a share; now, it’s dropped by about 50% to $115 per share. Over the summer, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees in an all-hands call that he would ramp up expectations and set more aggressive goals. “Realistically, there are probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” he told his team. Then, last month, Meta cut 11,000 jobs, amounting to 13% of its workforce.

These new mandates to avoid discussion about sensitive issues fall in line with Zuckerberg’s desire to increase intensity at work. The changes are positioned as a way to keep employees focused by “minimizing disruption,” Goler’s note says, per Fortune. Goler also addressed the way that Meta takes positions on public policy.

“We are often asked to sign on to advocacy letters on topics that are important, but not directly connected to our work. This can distract us from focusing on issues that are not central to our mission,” Goler wrote. “So going forward, as a company we will only make public statements on issues that are core to our business, meaning they are required in order to provide our service.”

Coinbase took a similar approach in 2020, as CEO Brian Armstrong posted a culture memo stating that discussions of political issues and social causes were not allowed — if employees didn’t like it, they could take severance and leave.

The policy was controversial. For many tech workers, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, current events have a palpable impact on their day-to-day lives — and that includes work. Even Jack Dorsey, former Twitter CEO and Bitcoin evangelist, spoke out against Coinbase’s anti-activism policy, writing that crypto is “direct activism against an unverifiable and exclusionary financial system which negatively affects so much of our society.” Dorsey said that Armstrong’s stance “leaves people behind.”

At Meta, a company operating social media platforms that billions of people use every day, it’s hard to imagine that these banned topics won’t inevitably come up.

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