Google timeline 2018-20

Selected articles and news sources, 2018-2020
Compiled by Bruce Hahne, Jan. 2020

March 2018

Google is Helping the Pentagon Build AI for Drones

Google Partnered with the U.S. Military on Machine Learning to Analyze Drone Footage

August 2018

Inside Google’s Effort to Develop a Censored Search Engine in China
“… The app has been designed to filter out content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. The censored search app will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to internal Google documents.”

September 2018

Google’s censored search engine for China is sparking a moral crisis within the company
The company is reportedly cracking down on employees who are sharing details about it.
“… Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and about a dozen other groups signed a letter in August, urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel the project. ‘As it stands, Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and human rights in China,’ they wrote.”

October 2018

How Google Protected Andy Rubin, the ‘Father of Android’
The internet giant paid Mr. Rubin $90 million and praised him, while keeping silent about a misconduct claim.

November 2018

Google donates $5000 to Cindy Hyde-Smith after lynching comments
“U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) made a racist joke about lynching that clearly wasn’t funny but apparently, Google doesn’t seem to be bothered and donated $5,000 to her campaign on Tuesday, according to documents filed with the FEC.”

December 2018

Half of Google’s Workforce is Reportedly Treated Like Second-Class Citizens

January 2019

Google Urged the U.S. to Limit Protection For Activist Workers
“While Google publicly supported employees who protested company policies, it quietly asked the government to narrow the right to organize over work email”

Facebook, Google, and Microsoft supported conference with climate change denialists

February 2019

Google reaped millions in tax breaks as it secretly expanded its real estate footprint across the U.S.
“I’m confident that had the community known this project was under the direction of Google, people would have spoken out, but we were never given the chance to speak,” said Travis Smith, managing editor of the Waxahachie Daily Light, the local paper. “We didn’t know that it was Google until after it passed.”

March 2019

Google Appoints Transphobic Official to its AI Ethics Board
“James’ history of bigotry stretches far back, to her time as senior vice president on the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law Center-identified anti-gay hate group. People on Twitter criticized Google for the appointment, questioning how someone who is against equal rights for LGBTQ people could possibly be qualified for an ethics council.”

Despite Crackdowns, White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi Videos Take Stubborn Root on YouTube
“Becca Lewis, of Data and Society, a New York-based research center, said YouTube has historically taken a ‘hands-off, laissez faire’ approach to white supremacist content, focusing mostly on eradicating “explicit slurs or threats to violence” from the platform… ‘There are certain white supremacist channels that have been running for upwards of 10 years on YouTube,’ said Lewis”

April 2019

Google Walkout Organizers Say They’re Facing Retaliation
Two employees who helped organize a walkout of thousands of workers say they’ve either been demoted or been told to drop concerns about ethics.

Google Accused of Retaliating Against Staff in New Labor Case

YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant
Proposals to change recommendations and curb conspiracies were sacrificed for engagement, staff say.

Twitter and Youtube Won’t Commit to Ban White Nationalism after Facebook Makes Policy Switch

May 2019

Google Exec’s Internal Email On Its Data Leak Policy Has Rattled Employees
“The email ‘could very easily be read as an attempt to scare anyone who might be a whistleblower or organizer,’ said one employee … ‘I think it’s clear that organizing around Maven and the walkout would have been much more difficult if these policies had been in place.’”

‘A white-collar sweatshop’: Google Assistant contractors allege wage theft

June 2019

Google Decides that Homophobic Harassment Does Not Violate its Policies
“After days of silence, YouTube now says it doesn’t think Crowder’s homophobic and racist slurs, including Crowder calling Maza a ‘lispy queer’ and a ‘gay Mexican,’ qualify as harassment.”

The Making of a Youtube Radical
“Over years of reporting on internet culture, I’ve heard countless versions of Mr. Cain’s story: an aimless young man — usually white, frequently interested in video games — visits YouTube looking for direction or distraction and is seduced by a community of far-right creators.
“Some young men discover far-right videos by accident, while others seek them out. Some travel all the way to neo-Nazism, while others stop at milder forms of bigotry.”
“The common thread in many of these stories is YouTube and its recommendation algorithm.”

Google rejects all 13 shareholder proposals at its annual meeting, despite protesting workers
“Yesterday at Google’s annual shareholder meeting, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, faced 13 independent stockholder proposals ranging from sexual harassment and diversity, to the company’s policies regarding China and forced arbitration. There was also a proposal to limit Alphabet’s power by breaking up the company. However, as expected, every stockholder proposal was voted down after a few minutes of ceremonial voting, despite protesting workers. The company’s co-founders, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin were both no-shows and Google CEO Sundar Pichai didn’t answer any questions.”

August 2019

Google pushed an exception through to allow US Customs and Border Protection to try a key cloud product free, even as 1,300 Google employees protest any work with the agency

October 2019

Google’s attempt to shut down a unionization meeting just riled up its employees
“Management tried to shut down an employee-led talk on unionization at its Zurich office”

Google accused of spying with new tool that flags large employee meetings

November 2019

Google Hires Firm Known for Anti-Union Efforts
“The firm, IRI Consultants, appears to work frequently for hospitals and other health care organizations. Its website advertises “union vulnerability assessments” and boasts about IRI’s success in helping a large national health care company persuade employees to avoid a union election ”

Google fires employee who protested company’s work with US border patrol
Three other Google staffers were reportedly fired on Monday, prompting accusations of retaliation

Google’s Next Moonshot: Union Busting
“With these firings, Google is ramping up its illegal retaliation against workers engaging in protected organizing. This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon…”

Google to Pentagon: ‘We’re Eager to do More’
“In what turned into an unlikely lovefest this morning, Kent Walker, Google’s current senior vice president for global affairs; Eric Schmidt, formerly Google’s chairman and now the chairman of the Pentagon-appointed Defense Innovation Board; and Lt. Gen. John ‘Jack’ Shanahan, the former head of Project Maven now leading the Pentagon’s year-old Joint AI Center, sat side by side. …’We are looking forward to working more closely together in the future,’ Kent said. …’We are a proud American company,’ Walker said, in words that must have been music to the ears of Pentagon officials.”

December 2019

Google’s Alleged Union Busting Is Now Under Federal Investigation

Another Google Employee Says They Were Fired for Backing a Union
They feel like they can steamroll us and that they might get away with it.”

Google’s anti-worker actions evoke IBM’s racist past
The companies are linked by their records of discrimination, silencing dissent and undermining human rights

Google is Going to War Against its Own Workers
“What seems abundantly clear is that Alphabet, now fully under the reign of Sundar Pichai, is attempting to steer against a company culture that has rapidly become one of the most outspoken among the tech giants, and doing so in ways the NLRB way well deem illegal.”

January 2020

I Was Google’s Head of International Relations. Here’s Why I Left.
“… each time I recommended a Human Rights Program, senior executives came up with an excuse to say no. … As someone who had consistently advocated for a human rights-based approach, I was being sidelined from the on-going conversations on whether to launch Dragonfly. I then realized that the company had never intended to incorporate human rights principles into its business and product decisions. Just when Google needed to double down on a commitment to human rights, it decided to instead chase bigger profits and an even higher stock price.”

A top Google exec pushed the company to commit to human rights. Then Google pushed him out, he says.

Youtube Still Promotes Climate Disinformation, Report Finds
“A new report by the global activist NGO Avaaz reveals that, despite YouTube’s pledge to combat misinformation, the popular video site owned by Google has failed to crack down on this problem when it comes to climate change. Videos containing false or misleading information on climate change continue to reach millions of users through YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. Furthermore, ads — including those from major brands and environmental groups — displayed on these videos provide a monetary incentive, not only to YouTube, but to the videos’ creators to keep promoting fringe theories contrary to scientific reality.”


Selective enforcement of departure policies if the employee works on labor rights:

Liz Fong-Jones, April 2019:
“The company forced me out early when I announced my exit, despite the fact that there was no policy requiring it, and plenty of others had been allowed to stay until their last day.”

Colin McMillen, January 2020:
“I was also pushed out of Google weeks before my originally intended date, and I wasn’t even leaving for a competitor! …HR cited a policy that’s apparently not written down anywhere employees can read, and is selectively enforced”
“I know Google employees both before and after my departure who *were* allowed to announce their resignation a month or two in advance & hand off their duties / burn down their vacation while keeping health insurance & other benefits, but apparently that perk is Not For Activists”