According to The Verge, Alphabet shareholder Trillium Asset Management is pushing for better whistleblower protections at Google in light of The firing of prominent artificial intelligence ethics researcher Timnit Gebru. The $3.5 billion sustainable investment company has filed a shareholder resolution asking its board to conduct a third-party review of its current policies.
“Reports indicate that many Google employees who have resigned or been fired…… Public reporting is subject to retaliation for expressing the human rights implications of company practices, including systematic workplace racism and gender discrimination, “the resolution reads. “These red flags indicate that there may be cultural, ethical or human rights issues within the company.”
Trillium owns 63,078 Alphabet shares — a stake currently worth about $140 million.
Gebru was fired late last year while writing a paper on the dangers of large language models. Two months later, her co-director, Margaret Mitchell, was also fired after she used scripts to search her own email for evidence of discrimination against Gebru. Google said she had violated its security policies.
Open Mic, a nonprofit group that works with shareholders to advocate for greater corporate accountability and is helping organize the proposal, said Mitchell’s firing could be vindictive. “The rationale they used was’ this person violated our data security efforts, ‘” said deputy director Hannah Lucal. “It’s important to bring this up because they use trade secrets and data policies as an excuse to retaliate against worker organizers.”
It is a sentiment shared by the Alphabet union, which launched a campaign in January in part to protect employees and contractors from retaliation. “We like to know that if something goes wrong on a project, the people we know can tell us,” says Google software engineer and union member Andrew Gainer-Dewar. “That’s why the security of reporting is so important. And that’s what we’re trying to do with the unions.”