- Multiple people have accused YouTuber Jared “ProJared” Knabenbauer of sending and requesting sexually explicit pictures from fans, including at least two people who were underage at the time.
- The accusations surfaced after Knabenbauer’s wife, Heidi O’Ferrall, said that he had been abusive and said that he had been “soliciting nudes from his fans for years.”
- The creator collective Knabenbauer belonged to, NormalBoots, said in a statement that they were first informed of the allegations on April 4, which prompted them to start an investigation and eventually cut ties with Knabenbauer.
- Knabenbauer has lost more than 200,000 subscribers since the allegations were made public.
Popular YouTube gamer Jared “ProJared” Knabenbauer has been accused of sending and soliciting sexually explicit pictures from his fans, including at least two individuals who were underage.
The allegations first came to light on Wednesday when Knabenbauer, who had over one million YouTube subscribers, announced in a statement on Twitter that he was divorcing his wife, cosplayer Heidi O’Ferrall.
O’Ferrall responded in a series of tweets accusing Knabenbauer of cheating on her and repeatedly lying about it. She claimed that he “gaslit” her for months and acted abusively.
He told his friends a version of events that omits his infidelity and portrays me as an aggressive and unreasonable person. As though I’m randomly angry and upset all the time, for no reason at all.— Heidi O’Ferrall✨ (@AtelierHeidi) May 9, 2019
It’s because he’s abusing me.
In a separate post, O’Ferrall also said that Knabenbauer “has been soliciting nudes from his fans for years.”
“I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine,” she wrote on Twitter. “Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he’s a popular internet man.”
I used to think that among consenting adults, it was fine. Now I see it as an abuse of power for him to intentionally manipulate anyone to show him their naked body on the basis that he’s a popular internet man.— Heidi O’Ferrall✨ (@AtelierHeidi) May 9, 2019
I would like to apologize for my role in enabling this.
Others Come Forward
Following O’Ferrall’s post, several others came forward to share their experiences, with some saying that he would often send them explicit pictures that were unsolicited.
Those who came forward included at least two people who claim that they were underage at the time of their interactions with Knabenbauer. One fan, who goes by Chai, tweeted details, but later set his Twitter account to private.
“ProJared sexually manipulated me via Tumblr when I was 16,” Chai wrote, according to a reuploaded screenshot of his post. “I sent him many actual, real nudes. He knew I was 16.”
Chai also said that he sent lewd pictures to ProJared’s blog “with the explicit instruction ‘do not post this online. I’m 16.’ He posted them anyway.”
Chai noted in his statement that he had another friend who was also underage and “had been manipulated in the same way,” Chai said this individual was planning on coming forward.
Shortly after, a user who goes by Charlie came forward with a story similar to Chai’s. In a Twitter thread, Charlie shared a statement of their experience with Knabenbauer and provided screenshots of their conversations.
In the statement, Charlie writes that they were a “really big fan of ProJared” when they were “around the same age as Chai (15-16).” Charlie said that Knabenbauer asked fan’s on his Tumblr account to send naked pictures, noting that the blog was “in no way age restricted.”
“Jared is a grown man, I’m sure he understands that a significant chunk of his audience are middle and high schoolers,” Charlie wrote. “An open invitation to send him nudes is oddly predatory […] especially when there is a risk for minors (again, a good portion of his following) sending nudes.”
Charlie then goes on to say that they eventually sent Knabenbauer naked pictures.“He messaged me and thanked me and told me I was beautiful,” Charlie wrote. “I don’t think he ever asked for my age.”
Since Chai and Charlie made their statements, others have come forward to talk about the Tumblr blog Knabenbauer created to send and share explicit pictures with his fans.
Rogue Rocket spoke to a Twitter user who goes by Bren, who told us they never interacted with Knabenbauer personally, but described themself as a witness to the blog. Bren said they found Knabenbauer’s blog in group chat for the game “Asagao Academy.”
“I remember that a handful of people in the group chat were into the blog, many were minors,” Bren said. “I would say that him creating the whole blog was incredibly manipulative. His fan base was made up of so many underage fans.”
Bren described how Knabenbauer would refer to his fans who submitted naked pictures as “sinners.”
“Two adults wouldn’t say they’re ‘sinning’ when sharing nudes, but a teenager who hasn’t had the chance to explore their sexuality might have that view,” Bren said. “So to me, all of the talk about sinning and sinners felt like he was well aware that there was a large gap in the levels of sexual experience between him and his fans, and I think he got off to this idea of him, a 30 something year old man, being “naughty” and “sinful” with people half his age.. essentially grooming a whole group of fans.”
“Not to mention the power dynamic between a famous Youtuber and his audience, which is only amplified when much of that audience is underage,” Bren continued. “So when he was asking for nudes on his tumblr, it only made sense that his underage fans would answer that call.”
Bren’s experience was echoed by a person who goes by Asa, who spoke to The Daily Beast about their experience messaging Knabenbauer.
“I was freshly 18, and I had absolutely no romantic or sexual experiences,” Asa said. “He asked if I was over 18, and I said yes, mentioning that my birthday was scarcely a few months prior. He said that he was honored I would want to ‘use’ my newfound legality with him.”
Asa also claimed that it was “barely a secret” that underage people were interacting with Knabenbauer blog, adding, “I know a few of my friends had taken their ages off of their page so that Jared couldn’t verify that they were under 18.”
In response to the allegations, NormalBoots, the creator collective that Knabenbauer is a part of, posted a statement on Twitter, saying that they had been informed of the allegations in an email a month prior.
“On April 4, 2019, an unsolicited e-mail was sent to the NormalBoots business account containing allegations of inappropriate conduct pertaining to Jared Knabenbauer,” the statement said. “Upon receiving the e-mail, NormalBoots Manager, Jacque Khalil took immediate action to alert the appropriate parties, including Mr. Knabenbauer and the NormalBoots legal team, of the allegations. No other members of NormalBoots were made aware of the allegations while the investigation into the allegations was ongoing.”
The statement goes on to say that NormalBoots had planned to terminate their relationship with Knabenbauer before the allegations were made public, but have since “mutually agreed to part ways.”
In a Twitter post, Chai said that he and Charlie sent the email to NormalBoots, and shared a screenshot of the email the two received from them.
Knabenbauer himself has yet to make a statement, but many of his fans and others in the community have started to distance themselves from him. According to SocialBlade, Knabenbauer’s YouTube channel lost more than 100,000 subscribers in the first 24 hours after the allegations came out alone. Since then, he has lost a total of more than 200,000 followers.
Other gamers creators have also been distancing themselves from Knabenbauer as well, like popular creator collective Game Grumps, which has started deleting videos that Knabenbauer appeared in.
The accusations against Knabenbauer represents part of the broader problem of popular YouTubers using their position to prey on underage fans. Just two weeks ago, famous YouTuber Austin Jones was sentenced to ten years in federal prison for soliciting sexually explicit photos from multiple underage fans, some of whom were as young as 14.
Updates: This article was originally posted on May 10, but has been updated to include statements from Bren and Asa, the correct pronouns for Charlie, and updated records of ProJared’s subscriber loss as of May 14.
See what others are saying: (The Daily Beast) (The Verge) (Kotaku)
YouTube Updates Harassment Policy to Curb Threats and Personal Attacks
- YouTube announced new bullying and harassment policies that will prohibit implied threats and malicious insults based on a person’s sexuality, race, or gender expression.
- Under the new policy, channels who show a pattern of harassing behavior by continuously making remarks that come close to violating the harassment policy could also receive consequences.
- These changes come several months after a public controversy where former Vox host Carlos Maza accused conservative commentator Steven Crowder of harassing him on his channel. While Crowder did repeatedly call Maza names like “lispy queer,” YouTube said this was not a violation of their policy.
- Many were not happy with YouTube’s new policy, resulting in #YouTubeIsOverParty trending on Twitter. Some creators say they have already been impacted by the guidelines.
YouTube’s New Policy
YouTube announced new policy changes that will prohibit implied threats and malicious insults based on a person’s sexuality, race, or gender expression.
In a Wednesday blog post, the company announced that it was tightening the rules in regards to its bullying and harassment guidelines. These rules come after months of review with creators, experts from bullying organizations, free speech proponents, and advisers along all sides of the political spectrum.
“Harassment hurts our community by making people less inclined to share their opinions and engage with each other,” YouTube’s post said. “We heard this time and again from creators, including those who met with us during the development of this policy update.”
The company’s first major change aims to take “a stronger stance against threats and personal attacks.” YouTube’s guidelines previously said videos with explicit threats in them would have actions taken against them, and its new policy extends that to include videos with veiled or implied threats.
“This includes content simulating violence toward an individual or language suggesting physical violence may occur,” the post explains.
On top of threatening someone, this will also cover demeaning language that YouTube feels crosses the line. This will include “content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”
YouTube also addressed consequences for a “pattern of harassing behavior.” The company’s post says that creators found that harassment sometimes stemmed from remarks repeatedly made over the course of a series of videos or comments. Even though these individual videos or comments may not directly violate YouTube’s policy on their own, the company still has a plan to combat this.
“Channels that repeatedly brush up against our harassment policy will be suspended from [YouTube Partner Program], eliminating their ability to make money on YouTube,” YouTube said. The platform added that this content could be removed, and channels could receive strikes or be terminated.
YouTube clarified that these changes would also apply to the platform’s comment section, not just the videos posted. The company believes this will result in the number of comments removed from the site increasing, noting that 16 million were removed in their third quarter.
YouTube also outlined newer tools that have recently been added that give creators some control over their comment section.
“When we’re not sure a comment violates our policies, but it seems potentially inappropriate, we give creators the option to review it before it’s posted on their channel,” YouTube said.
In the early stages of the roll-out, YouTube saw a 75% reduction in user flags on comments. Most creators now have this setting, but can opt-out of it if they would like. They can also ignore the held comments.
“We expect there will continue to be healthy debates over some of the decisions and we have an appeals process in place if creators believe we’ve made the wrong call on a video,” the company said of this new update.
Why Did YouTube Change Its Policy?
Many believe these changes were prompted by the controversy between Carlos Maza, who hosted a series for Vox, and Steven Crowder, who hosts a series called Louder with Crowder on YouTube. Back in May, Maza tweeted a thread calling Crowder out for repeatedly calling him names on his show. Crowder repeatedly referred to Maza as “Mr. Gay Vox,” a “lispy queer,” and “gay Latino from Vox” in a mocking tone.
Crowder defended himself, saying this should not count as bullying, as he made these comments while providing criticism of Maza’s series. YouTube ended up responding to Maza saying that his comments, while potentially offensive, did not violate their policy.
Maza continued to call YouTube out for this decision. He said this “gives bigots free license” and accused the site of using its gay creators. Many criticized YouTube’s response, which came in June as the company celebrated pride month. Some found it hypocritical for the company to be publically celebrating the LGBTQ community while also allowing comments some perceived as homophobic to stay on their site.
Because of all this backlash, YouTube ended up suspending Crowder’s revenue. This decision was also met with outrage.
Maza and Crowder React
Maza tweeted a thread about the new policy on Wednesday morning. He claims that the real problem is whether or not YouTube will enforce it on all creators, which he thinks is unlikely.
“YouTube loves to manage PR crises by rolling out vague content policies they don’t actually enforce,” he wrote. “These policies only work if YouTube is willing to take down its most popular rule-breakers. And there’s no reason, so far, to believe that it is.”
Before YouTube made their official announcement, Crowder posted a video titled “Urgent. The YouTube ‘Purge’ Is Coming.” The video was uploaded Tuesday and is based largely on murmurs about what was to come. He said the policies could silence and negatively impact his channel and others like it.
“Obviously my heart goes out to any future conservative or any future independent voices that are affected because people got their feelings hurt,” he said.
Policy Gets Negative Feedback
Other creators also shared their reactions, with some saying they were already being impacted by the new changes. Ian Carter, known online as iDubbbz, tweeted a screenshot of an email from YouTube saying his video “Content Cop: Leafy” was taken down for violating guidelines.
He uses vulgar and antagonistic language in the video, and jokes about bullying being okay. Many, however, don’t think the video should have been removed as it was meant to call out someone else’s bad behavior.
Another creator, Gokanaru said his video critiquing h3h3 productions was removed.
Some online were frustrated with this, noting that their videos should not be taken down while someone like Onision, who has been accused of predatory behavior and grooming, still has videos online.
#YouTubeIsOverParty was a trending topic on Twitter by late Wednesday morning. Many used the hashtag to say that the policy could negatively impact creativity on the platform and that YouTube should not try to make this seem like this was a policy that creators asked for.
Even though the trending topic gained a lot of traction, YouTuber Taylor Harris said that as far as the use of the site goes, YouTube will likely be unimpacted.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (Tech Crunch) (Vox)
The Onision Controversy Explained
- Controversial YouTuber Onision has been accused of predatory behavior by multiple women, with many claiming that he groomed them to have sex with him once they turned 18.
- Many of these girls have spoken out, saying his partner Kai has aided him in this misconduct.
- Chris Hansen has been speaking to many of the women involved and announced on Wednesday that the FBI is investigating.
- Onision has denied the allegations and has posted a series of videos where he claims he is retiring but has continued to post online.
Who is Onision?
Controversial YouTuber Onision has been making headlines over the past week for a variety of reasons, including being banned from Patreon and posting videos claiming he is retiring. This follows years of accusations of grooming and predatory behavior.
James Jackson, known on the Internet as Onision and to many others as Greg, has been on YouTube since 2006. He has multiple channels with over one million followers and has been embattled in controversy for much of his time online.
His now ex-wife Skye appeared in his videos, with some elements of his divorce in 2010 broadcasted online. One of his first major controversies to bleed into the YouTube industry, however, happened in 2012 when he was banned from VidCon.
An ex-girlfriend of his made remarks that she felt he pressured her into having sex. He addressed these claims in a video and repeatedly referred to the number of people she had slept with and used her derogatory words including the word whore. He insinuated that because of this, she could not be sexually assaulted.
“To be only 26 and to have slept with over 20 people is ridiculous,” Jackson said. “And of course she goes to insinuate that when we did make love, that I was forcing her into it, that I was pressuring her into it and she didn’t really want to. That’s funny coming from someone who has slept with over 20 people.”
This ended up landing him in hot water with a lot of YouTubers, several of whom posted videos of their own calling these comments slut-shaming. Some also said they believed Jackson was being accused of a serious crime and should not brush that off. Many people spread a petition that was actually a year old at that point, calling for people to unsubscribe from him and to get YouTube to revoke its partnership with him.
Because there was so much backlash and outrage over Jackson’s video, he announced on Facebook that he would not be attending VidCon. He said he received an email from VidCon founder Hank Green saying his presence could create a hostile and unsafe environment.
Accusations Against Jackson and Anderson
More recent controversies surround serious allegations against him. Several girls have claimed that Jackson and his partner Kai Anderson have groomed them from a young age to later be involved in a sexual relationship. The two have denied these allegations. Rogue Rocket reached out to Jackson and his team for comments regarding the accusations. They said that “any involvement regarding interview or questions is $10,000.”
Jackson’s relationship with Anderson began when Anderson was 17. At the time, Anderson went by the name of “Lainey” and identified as a woman. He has since transitioned and identifies as a male. When their relationship began, they would drive across state lines to legally have sexual encounters. They are now married with two kids, and many of the accusations claim that Jackson has used Anderson to lure girls in.
One of the most recent incidents comes from a girl named Sarah. She began talking to Anderson and Jackson online when she was a 13-year-old fan, and was mainly interested in Anderson.
By the time she was 14 and 15, she claims they started texting and sent flirty messages, including a topless photo of her. Sarah says when she was 16, she was going through some personal and family troubles and she ended up moving in with Jackson and Anderson. She lived with them on and off for a couple of years.
Sarah claims that when she first moved in, the relationship was not sexual at all, though there were romantic insinuations like physical contact and cuddling. She added, however, that the relationship became sexual after she turned 18.
Sarah, now 19, did a livestream at the end of August discussing their relationship, which started a big conversation online. She ended up being interviewed by YouTuber Blaire White, who frequently posts about Jackson and the allegations against him.
“It hurts to say this, but I feel like they knew what they were doing,” Sarah said of Jackson and Anderson inviting her to live with them as a teenager in order to later have sex with her when she was of legal age.
“Yeah. I think anyone watching this probably feels the same,” White responded. “That there’s no reason really to have a teenager move in with you, send the message they sent, and then conveniently and coincidentally be intimate with you after you turn 18.”
In later interviews, Sarah explicitly said that she felt that she was groomed.
While speaking with White, she added that in the time before she turned 18, Jackson often forced her to act like there was nothing flirty about their relationship. She claimed he told her what to say in a video posted to one of his channels, despite her not wanting to be in it.
“He really pressured me into making it. And I didn’t want to,” she said. “I have bloopers of me literally having a mental breakdown, like sobbing because I was just so overwhelmed.”
She added that he also would lie about their relationship.
“And also what hurt me a lot was having to watch him say ‘Oh we don’t even hug Sarah, we don’t even do this or that.’ And it’s like, I’m sitting there at 16 watching this like ‘yes you do,’” she told White.
White also questioned Sarah about an NDA she was allegedly forced to sign.
“You told me off-camera that you signed an NDA the morning after you were intimate with them for the first time,” White said.
“Yeah,” Sarah responded. “He and Kai decided that everyone in their life needed to sign an NDA and I was no exception to that. The NDA was 1000% for me to not do what I’m doing right now.”
In September, not long after Sarah told her story, another girl by the name of Shiloh posted to Twitter about her relationship with Jackson. Many knew some details about her story, as they were public and posted on YouTube when they dated in 2011. This series of tweets, however, painted a larger picture.
Shiloh says she first began contacting Jackson when she was a singer in Canada. They would talk on Skype while he was still married to his first wife. She was 17, and Jackson told her about his divorce, adding that he loved her.
Shiloh claims that he ended up meeting her in a hotel in Pennsylvania after researching that it would be legal for them to have sexual relations there. The first thing he said to her was, “I can’t wait to get you pregnant.”
When the police learned of Jackson’s presence in the hotel with Shiloh, she claims they asked him to leave. According to Shiloh, there were cameras present in the room and they searched for child pornography. Shiloh has since said that the cameras were not recording at the time.
She says that after this encounter, he began to alienate Shiloh from her mother. He rented an apartment near where she lived and waited until she turned 18. He convinced her to get a tattoo with his name while she was still underage.
The tweets then turn to discuss alleged incidents of control and manipulation. Shiloh claims he locked her out of a room while she cried and begged for him not to while he masturbated to porn. She also said that she sometimes slept next to his office chair so she could wake up and service him.
She claimed that he shaved her head during sex to degrade her and give her a list of rules to follow. She says she was told to not consume intoxicating substances, wear makeup or bras, have social media accounts without him knowing the password, among other things.
At one turning point, she claims he filmed a breakdown while she was trying to leave him. She alleges that the police took her to a mental health facility because when he didn’t let her call her mom, she threatened suicide while he was on the phone with the police.
They broke up after this, but he “lured” her back in and let her pick an engagement ring. She said that their sexual encounters were sometimes so aggressive she was in physical distress.
Shiloh then says she became pregnant, but the fetus died and did not pass, meaning it was not a full miscarriage. She explained that she was at risk of going septic but he refused to pay for her healthcare. She ended up going back to Canada, where she ended up going into labor.
He ended up posting a video announcing their break-up and she claims he cast her as a liar.
While she was in the hospital, Shiloh’s mother hid her passport so she could not return to see him. Jackson gave her $1,100 to get a new one. She says she spent the money elsewhere and got away from him.
Another girl named Billie has also come forward with her story. She had posted about some of the toxic elements of their relationship before. In 2017, she tweeted that he wanted to punish her after she smoked marijuana. The punishments included getting a tattoo and chaining herself to a wall.
She revealed more when speaking with Dateline and To Catch a Predator’s Chris Hansen. Hansen currently has a YouTube presence where he has extensively covered Jackson’s case. He has reached out to speak with Jackson, but Jackson said he would only speak for $350,000.
During her interview, Billie said that the relationship started when Anderson messaged her online. When she was over 18, she was flown out to meet Anderson and Jackson in person and visit them at their home.
She claimed she was mainly interested in Anderson and had no idea what she was getting into when she visited the first time. Jackson was insistent that he watch the two of them kiss. On their first visit, she says nothing sexual happened, however, this changed when she came back again.
She also said that she does not think anything illegal happened between her, Anderson, or Jackson, but noted that she felt they were always walking towards the line. Much of the time she visited overlapped with Sarah living there, and Billie did say that she felt something illegal could have happened with Sarah. She did not specify what laws may have been broken.
Billie said that when the two were there, they would spend time with Jackson and Anderson’s kids and did a lot of “babysitting.”
“But if it was both of us, that’s what we were doing,” she told Hansen. “Babysitting, cleaning, helping cook food, just you know helping with whatever general grocery shopping kind of thing.“
“Did you get paid to do this?” Hansen asked.
Billie said she was not paid to do this but was paid for social media moderation.
“It sounds like they treated you like the help, and the help was expected to service them sexually,” Hansen said. “Is that fair?”
“Yeah, I feel like the dynamics just really weird,” Billie said.
She also claimed she had to sign contracts like Sarah did, saying she signed between four or five.
Billie’s interview with Hansen ended with Hansen making an announcement.
“I should let you and our audience know that I did have a conversation with the FBI yesterday. We’re breaking news here,” he said. “And obviously there is evidence that some young women have that could very well be of interest to investigators.”
He claimed that while Jackson and Anderson were careful when it came to their physical sexual relationships, there could be cases of transmission of child pornography. In a previous interview with YouTuber Daniel Sulzbach, also known by Repzion, Sulzbach said that there could be many cases of this.
Sulzbach claimed that Jackson had deleted online forums after Hansen started talking about him online, likely because young girls were posting photos in those forum discussion threads.
“There’s archived stuff of images of girls from the age of, literally 12, all the way to 16 or 17 years of age and they’re all scantily clad or sometimes just their underwear.”
On Wednesday, Hansen told his audience that the FBI is investigating.
Recent Scandals and Content
Jackson has seemingly gone unscathed and remains on many of the platforms he has a strong presence on. This changed on November 26 when he was banned from Patreon for doxxing.
He tweeted a screenshot of texts he said he sent to Billie, but included her phone number. The tweet was removed within an hour of it being posted, and Patreon considered this to be doxxing, which is a violation of their policy.
“Yes, we removed Onision from Patreon as he violated our Bullying and Harassment as it relates to doxing,” they said in a statement to The Verge.
Jackson responded to the news of his ban in a meltdown on YouTube that day, then followed with an apology video. On Wednesday he made another video where he announced his retirement, though it appeared to not be serious.
He continued to post tweets throughout Wednesday, some of which contained sexually explicit language. He also tweeted a link to a new website for his fans. He did a livestream playing video games.
On Thursday he posted another video called “left” where he packed his bags as though he was leaving. This video also contained meltdowns and appeared to have been made in jest.
Former Employees Say They Were Fired from Google for Speaking Up. Here’s Why They’re Suing.
- Google fired four employees for allegedly accessing sensitive information and leaking it to the press.
- Tuesday, those employees denied the claims they had leaked confidential information and sued Google for “unfair labor practices,” alleging the tech company had fired them in retaliation for organizing workers’ movements.
- At the same time, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped down from their executive positions with Google’s parent company, Alphabet.
- They then handed control of Alphabet over to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
Fired Employees Sue Google
Four recently-fired Google engineers announced they would be suing Google for unfair business practices.
The former employees allege they were fired in retaliation after participating in organizing several workplace movements within the company.
“We spoke up when we saw Google making unethical business decisions that create a workplace that is harmful to us and our colleagues,” the four said in a joint Medium statement. “We participated in legally protected labor organizing, fighting to improve workplace conditions for all Google workers. We joined together to hold Google accountable for the impact on our workplace of its business decisions, policies, and practices on a range of topics.”
Google fired the engineers on Nov. 25 for allegedly accessing sensitive information and then leaking that information to the press. Google then reportedly sent an email to employees titled “Securing our data,” which said those four employees had accessed data that was “outside the scope of their jobs.”
In their Medium post, the former employees denied that they had leaked any sensitive information.
“This is flatly untrue,” they said, “and in the privacy of our meetings with HR and Google’s internal investigations team, the company acknowledged this.”
“It’s about trying to stop all workplace organizing,” they added. “Google wants to send a message to everyone: if you dare to engage in protected labor organizing, you will be punished.”
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, those employees elaborated, saying they had accessed information outside of the scope of their jobs, but they also claimed that accessing such information was not against Google policy and that it was available to anyone in the company.
Notably, some of that information included documents relating to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
“Viewing of others’ calendars, documents, etc., is a longstanding tradition at Google, very intentionally,” one of the employees told BuzzFeed News, “and Google provides users, including employees, a wide range of access control features to limit things when needed.”
All four former employees have also denied the claim that they leaked such information to the press, with one of the employees saying she went so far as to send office reminders to organizing workers to not leak information.
For its part, Google has offered some pushback, a spokesperson saying “no one has been dismissed for raising concerns or debating the company’s activities.”
“We dismissed four individuals who were engaged in intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies, including systematically accessing and disseminating other employees’ materials and work,” that spokesperson said.
In September, Google settled a similar lawsuit alleging that it was not allowing employees to discuss workplace issues. While it didn’t admit to any wrongdoing, it did have to affirm that employees can discuss work-related issues.
Google Fires Four Employees
Prior to the firing, two of the engineers were placed on administrative leave.
On Nov. 22, more than 200 people protested outside of Google’s office in San Francisco to reinstate those employees; however, that pressure ultimately proved not to be enough.
After those employees were fired, some workers claimed they had been fired because of their roles in organizing movements.
“With these firings, Google is ramping up its illegal retaliation,” a group of organizing workers said in a statement. “This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon, and we won’t stand for it.”
Those four employees had all been involved in various movements, including protesting Google’s work with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to provide a cloud network and Google’s work with the Pentagon to use A.I. to interpret videos that could be used for drone strikes.
They also protested Google’s creation of Dragonfly, a search engine meant to comply with Chinese censorship laws. Google then terminated work on Dragonfly in July.
Perhaps most notably, they had also been involved in last year’s mass walkout that involved more than 20,000 Google employees. The walkout occurred after news leaked that Google had paid Android creator Andy Rubin a $90 million exit package following sexual misconduct allegations.
Google Co-Founders Step Down
In other Google-related news, both heads of its parent company, Alphabet, announced they were stepping down from their positions on Tuesday.
The two executives, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founded Google together. Page had served as Alphabet’s CEO while Brin had served as the company’s president.
In a joint statement, they then handed control of Alphabet to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“…it’s the natural time to simplify our management structure,” they said. “We’ve never been ones to hold on to management roles when we think there’s a better way to run the company. And Alphabet and Google no longer need two CEOs and a President.”
Both Page and Brin, however, said they will still be involved as board members and shareholders.
Following this announcement, Pichai also confirmed that none of this will have any effect on Google’s daily operations.
“I want to be clear that this transition won’t affect the Alphabet structure or the work we do day to day,” Pichai said in an email to employees. “I will continue to be very focused on Google and the deep work we’re doing to push the boundaries of computing and build a more helpful Google for everyone.”
The news of the transfer of power was widely considered not too surprising as both Page and Brin have largely stayed out of the spotlight after restructuring Google in 2015.