3 min read

Meredith Whittaker who played a major role in Google’s Walkout last year is leaving the company amid facing retaliation at work. The news was disclosed when a software engineer at Google posted a tweet about her last day.

 

A Google spokeswoman also confirmed Whittaker’s departure to Bloomberg. However, Whittaker has not yet shared the news on her Twitter account.


Last year in November, a global Google Walkout for Real Change was organized by Claire Stapleton, Meredith Whittaker and six other employees at the company. It prompted 20,000 Google employees and contractors to walk off the job opposing the company’s handling of sexual harassment allegations.

In April, Stapleton and Whittaker accused the company of retaliation against them over last year’s Google Walkout protest. Both their roles changed dramatically including calls to abandon AI ethics work, demotion, and more. After the announcement of Google disbanding it’s AI Ethics council, Whittaker said, she was informed that to remain at the company she will have to abandon her work on AI ethics and the AI Now Institute. She said that her manager told her in late December she would likely need to leave Google’s Cloud division. The same manager told her in March that the “Cloud division was seeking more revenue and that AI Now and her AI ethics work was no longer a fit. This was a strange request because the Cloud unit has a team working on ethical concerns related to AI.”

Similar retaliation was faced by Stapleton, who was told she would be demoted from her role as marketing manager at YouTube. “My manager started ignoring me, my work was given to other people, and I was told to go on medical leave, even though I’m not sick,” Following continuous counter-attacks, Stapelton was prompted to resign from her position last month.

Whittaker had then tweeted in her support.

Whittaker had signed the petition protesting Google’s infamous Project Dragonfly, the secretive search engine that Google is allegedly developing which will comply with the Chinese rules of censorship.

Meredith Whittaker was also a leader in the anti-Maven movement. Google’s Project Maven, was focused on analyzing drone footage and could have been eventually used to improve drone strikes on the battlefield. More than 3,000 Google employees signed a petition against this project that led to Google deciding not to renew its contract with the U.S. Department of Defense in 2019. Google announced in June it would not renew the contract. Whittaker tweeted at the time that she was “incredibly happy about this decision, and have a deep respect for the many people who worked and risked to make it happen. Google should not be in the business of war.”

People have commented on how Meredith’s departure will only intensify activism at Google.

“The impact @mer__edith has in AI ethics is second to none. What happens to her at Google will be a gauge for the wellbeing of the entire field. Watch closely,” Moritz Hardt, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Berkeley University

Liz Fong-Jones, Xoogler, who left Google over ethical concerns earlier this year, tweeted about the number of Google Walkout and other organizing leaders that have left the company. There are five who have left, Claire Stapleton, Meredith Whittaker, Liz Fong-Jones, Celie O’Neil-Hart, and Erica Anderson.

Read Next

Google rejects all 13 shareholder proposals at its annual meeting, despite protesting workers

Google Walkout organizer, Claire Stapleton resigns after facing retaliation from management

#NotOkGoogle: Employee-led town hall reveals hundreds of stories of retaliation at Google


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