FORTUNE.COM // JUNE .1 .19
2018 the company tried to address concerns
at its weekly all-hands meeting, known
as TGIF. The gathering has been core to
Google’s culture since its early days, in large
part because it gives anyone the chance to
question senior management. At the meet-
ing, an employee told executives she used to
work for the Department of Defense but left
to avoid contributing to military technology.
What, she asked, were her avenues for let-
ting management know this was not okay?
The fact that you can ask that question here
is a powerful voice, Brin told her. At some
companies this would have been a sufficient
answer. At Google it was not.
Management continued to put together
forums to try to address employee con-
cerns and explain why they believed Maven
was a worthwhile project, holding three
town halls to discuss the ethics of A.I.
A group of organizers kept up the pres-
sure, making sure there was a Maven question every week at TGIF.
They tracked the number of employees who quit over the issue,
handed out stickers, and made mocking memes about Maven on
Google’s internal meme creator. The debate turned public in April
2018 when the original letter sent to Pichai, which would eventu-
ally garner nearly 5,000 employee signatures, was leaked to the
New York Times.
In June, Google announced that it would not renew its contract
for Maven and released a set of A.I. principles laying out guidelines
for the future of the technology—including a vow not to use it to
create weapons. Most of the employee activists viewed the an-
nouncement as a win, but speaking at a Times conference later that
year, Pichai played down the influence of the internal pressures.
“We don’t run the company by referendum,” he said. He explained
that he had listened to people actually working on building A.I. in
making the decision. He stressed, however, that the company con-
tinued to do work with the military in areas like cybersecurity.
Then, in August, just as the tensions over Maven were beginning
JACK POULSON :
Former Google research scientist
WHAT ARE GOOGLE’S
RED LINES AROUND
I STILL DON’T KNOW.”
f years at Google.
employees in 50 cities
around the globe dem-
onstrate to protest the
company’s handling of
By the end of the
year, all Dragonfly
informed that they
were being reassigned.
Google says it will no
longer require current
or future employees to
arbitrate any employ-
A.I. ADVISORY COUNCIL
Google disbands the
group after employees
protest the inclusion
of the head of the Heri-
Employees stage a sit-
in after two Googlers
accuse the company
of retaliating against
them for their organiz-
ing efforts. Google
denies the accusations.
"NOT OK , GOOGLE”: Globally, 20,000 Google employees participated in the
November 2018 walkout.