One of WIRED’s biggest stories this month actually traces its genesis to a moment all the way back in August. That’s when a Google engineer named James Damore published a 10-page memo criticizing what he called the company’s “left bias” and its creation of “a politically correct monoculture.” The missive sent a shockwave through Google, which ultimately fired Damore, and prompted much internal discussion over the company’s diversity efforts.
Unsurprisingly, this internal reckoning has created some deep divisions within Google, and on January 26, senior writer Nitasha Tiku spoke to 15 current Google employees who say some of their coworkers are inciting outsiders to harass Damore’s critics in public forums. These Googlers, many of them de facto diversity advocates, say they have had their personal details published online and received death threats. What’s more, the employees say, their colleagues have “weaponized human resources,” goading others into saying inflammatory things that are then reported to HR in an attempt to have people punished or fired.
It all points to a larger, more foundational problem Google now finds itself grappling with. As Tiku writes in her piece, “The complaints underscore how Google’s freewheeling workplace culture, where employees are encouraged to ‘bring your whole self to work’ and exchange views on internal discussion boards, has turned as polarized and toxic as the national political debate.” Tiku’s story offers a rare glimpse into Google, which has long been tight-lipped and insular, as it navigates an increasingly divided landscape.
Of course, WIRED covered much more than that this month. Below are January’s 10 most-read stories.
A Google-led team of researchers has found a critical chip flaw in millions of computers that developers are now scrambling to patch. —Andy Greenberg
The uncanny coincidences among the Meltdown and Spectre discoveries raise questions about “bug collisions”—and the safety of the NSA’s hidden vulnerability collection. —Andy Greenberg
A 200-mph jet stream sent several passenger jets to nearly 800 mph, and helped break a (subsonic) speed record. —Jack Stewart
Logan Paul’s video of Japan’s “suicide forest” was a nadir for the YouTube star. And the platform that enables him. —Louise Matsakis
A series of fossil finds suggests that life on Earth started earlier than anyone thought, calling into question a widely held theory of the solar system’s beginnings. —Rebecca Boyle
How important are password managers? Even their flaws double as reminders for why you need one. —Lily Hay Newman
Advocates for greater diversity at Google say they are being harassed and targeted on right-wing websites. —Nitasha Tiku
It’s not just the volume of water they found; it’s how mineable it promises to be. —Robbie Gonzalez
*The video known as badday.mpg has been an internet phenomenon for more than 20 years. —Joe Veix
*Winter Storm Grayson isn’t your typical bombogenerator, and more huge storms could follow. —Megan Molteni