Google's decision to remove a game that let users play as a Hong Kong protester has reportedly ignited a debate among employees (GOOG, GOOGL)


hong kong protest

  • Employees at Google are fighting internally about the company’s decision to remove a game from the Google Play Store that let users play as a protester in Hong Kong, Recode reported.
  • Google removed the game last week, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The debates are reportedly happening primarily on internal mailing lists at Google.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Google employees are engaged in a company-wide debate on the pro-democracy Hong Kong protests, according to a report from Shirin Ghaffary at Recode.

Last week, Google removed a game from the Google Play Store called “The Revolution of Our Times” that let users role-play as protesters in Hong Kong. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Hong Kong police asked Google to remove the game, while Google says that the game had already been flagged internally due to violating a policy about monetizing “sensitive events.”

revolution of our lives screenshot

Sources at Google told Recode that the company discussed the app at its most recent all-hands meeting. The discussion reportedly sparked disagreements between employees who support the protesters, and employees who are pro-Chinese government, or feel that these discussions are inappropriate for work.

Recode reported that employees in favor of the protesters have posted messages of solidarity to Memegen, an internal message board, increasing tensions. Memes supporting the protesters have gained thousands of upvotes in the past few days. Employees also reportedly raised the idea that companies like Google are morally obligated to support pro-democracy movements.

Posts Recode saw included photos of protesters with tags like “#FightforFreedom” and “#StandwithHongKong,” and criticisms of Google’s decision to remove the game. 

Google did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Google recently changed company guidelines to discourage political discussions at work — the new guidelines are a direct reversal of the company’s historically open culture. They read in part: “Our primary responsibility is to do the work we’ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics.”

Read more: These 6 tech companies have made the controversial decision to try to operate in China, where the government can demand social media posts be removed or search results be censored

Google isn’t the only tech company wrestling with how to keep China happy while minimizing bad PR. Apple recently removed HKMap Live from its App Store, the Journal also reported, which protesters were using to track police and avoid violent clashes.  

And Blizzard Entertainment punished esports competitor Blitzchung last week for saying “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our age!” during a Hearthstone tournament in Taiwan. He was banned from competitions for a year, and his prize money was rescinded (although Blizzard says it has since softened that punishment). Like Google, Blizzard said that it made its decision because Blitzchung violated its rules.

SEE ALSO: Google gave a sneak peek at a revamped version of its wireless earbuds, which will cost $180 when they launch next year

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