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Peter Thiel, left, and Reed Hastings. Mr. Thiel, a member of Facebook’s board of directors, was told by Mr. Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, that he would receive a negative evaluation of his performance on the board because of his support for Donald J. Trump.

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Photo Illustration by Andy Chen/The New York Times. Photos by Andrew White for The New York Times; Justin Sullivan, via Getty Images

The culture wars that have consumed politics in the United States have now landed on Silicon Valley’s doorstep.

That became clear this week after Google on Monday fired a software engineer, James Damore, who had written an internal memo challenging the company’s diversity efforts. The firing set off a furious debate over Google’s handling of the situation, with some accusing the company of silencing the engineer for speaking his mind. Supporters of women in tech praised Google. But for the right, it became a potent symbol of the tech industry’s intolerance of ideological diversity.

Silicon Valley’s politics have long skewed left, with a free-markets philosophy and a dash of libertarianism. But that goes only so far, with recent episodes putting the tech industry under the microscope for how it penalizes people for expressing dissenting opinions. Mr. Damore’s firing has now plunged the nation’s technology capital into some of the same debates that have engulfed the rest of the country.

Such fractures have been building in Silicon Valley for some time, reaching even into its highest echelons. The tensions became evident last year with the rise of Donald J. Trump, when a handful of people from the industry who publicly supported the then-presidential candidate faced blowback for their political decisions.

At Facebook, Peter Thiel, an investor and member of the social network’s board of directors, was told he would receive a negative evaluation of his board performance for supporting Mr. Trump by a peer, Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix. And Palmer Luckey, a founder of Oculus VR, a virtual reality start-up owned by Facebook, was pressured to leave the company after it was revealed that he had secretly funded a pro-Trump organization.

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Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said Mr. Damore’s comments carried additional weight to people on either side of the political spectrum because he was an engineer at Google, one of the world’s biggest technology companies.

Alongside other giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Apple, these companies “are seen as pillars of our society,” Mr. Galloway said. “Controversy and statements that emanate from these employees take on a different heft.”

The technology industry has long marched in lock step on issues such as supporting immigration and diversity, even though their companies remained largely male, white and Asian. But last year’s election of Mr. Trump — with his broadsides against political correctness, his coarse language toward women and his actions to restrict immigration and deny climate change — seemed to threaten many of those ideals.

At the same time, Mr. Trump’s words may have made dissenters in the tech industry more comfortable about speaking out.

“Trump, in a sense, licensed people to express what some people would call politically incorrect thoughts,” said Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia University’s Business School. “Then there’s the other force that a lot of Trump’s policies go against the inclusive ideals these companies espouse.”

At Google, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, said in an email on Monday that Mr. Damore was fired for violations of the company’s code of conduct, specifically his perpetuation of “harmful gender stereotypes” in the workplace. Mr. Damore had argued that biological reasons might explain the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry, causing widespread outrage inside and outside Google. In his defense, Mr. Damore said he had a right to express himself and said he was considering legal action against Google for firing him.

Amy Siskind, president of the New Agenda, a women’s advocacy group, tweeted that Mr. Damore is “every white male Trump voter feeling threatened” that women and people of color, “if given an equal chance, will reveal his mediocrity.”

Was Google Right to Fire the Engineer?

Should there be limits to open discussion in the workplace? Below is a selection of reader reactions to the news of James Damore’s firing.