The Googler Uprising was a string of employee actions within Google over a series of issues related to ethics and business practices, starting with the company's AI project for US military drones, then its secretive work on a censored/surveilling search tool for use in China; then the $80m payout to Android founder Andy Rubin after he was accused of multiple sexual assaults.
Tens of thousands of Google employees participated in the uprising, including 20,000 who walked off the job in February. The activist Google employees moved from victory to victory, including the ouster of a a transphobic, racist, xenophobic ideologue who had been appointed to Google's "AI Ethics" board.
Two key organizers, Meredith Whittaker and Claire Stapleton, publicly accused the company of targeting them for retaliation in April (to enormous internal uproar).
Now, Whittaker has resigned (on the thirteenth anniversary of her employement with Google), along with Celie O’Neil-Hart, who had been global head of trust and transparency marketing at YouTube Ads, and Google News Labs' Erica Anderson.
In Whittaker's farewell note to her colleagues, she calls on them to "unionize — in a way that works," "protect conscientious objectors and whistleblowers," "demand to know what you’re working on, and how it’s used" and "build solidarity with those beyond the company." She says that Google's entry into "new markets" like "healthcare, fossil fuels, city development and governance, transportation, and beyond...is gaining significant and largely unchecked power to impact our world (including in profoundly dangerous ways, such as accelerating the extraction of fossil fuels and the deployment of surveillance technology)."
Whittaker will devote her work to AI Now, the group she co-founded to build and promulgate critical, ethical frameworks for AI research. I wish her the best.
Whittaker is a friend and colleague of mine, and I volunteer on the advisory board for Simply Secure, a nonprofit she founded.
Leaving Google is deeply emotional for me, and I don’t know all of the ways I’ll miss it. I’m lucky because I get to continue my work at AI Now. And I’d be much sadder if I didn’t see many hundreds of Googlers establishing themselves as leaders, contributing their brilliance to organizing, and refusing to stand silent in the face of leadership’s dangerous complicity. Please, keep going!
The stakes are extremely high. The use of AI for social control and oppression is already emerging, even in the face of developers’ best of intentions. We have a short window in which to act, to build in real guardrails for these systems, before AI is built into our infrastructure and it’s too late.
I offer my unwavering support and love to those of you who continue to do amazing work here, and who have taken risks to support others. In solidarity with all of you who will continue this essential work within Google, I’ll close by offering an incomplete map of where I see future tech organizing moving.
Onward! Another #GoogleWalkout Goodbye [Meredith Whittaker/Google Walkout For Real Change]
Most of the Google Walkout Organizers Have Left the Company [Nitasha Tiku/Wired]