- 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.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The Verge) (CNN)
Twitch Sues Two Users for Creating Hate Raid Bots That Targeted Black and LGBTQ+ Streamers
Twitch said the two users were so relentless in their racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ hate raids that they forced some creators to stop streaming.
Twitch Sues Two Users
Twitch has filed a lawsuit against two of its users for allegedly creating hate raid bots that targeted Black and LGBTQ+ streamers with racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ content.
The users named in the lawsuit, filed late Thursday, are CruzzControl and CreatineOverdose. While their legal names are currently unknown, Twitch said it traced one to the Netherlands and the other to Austria. It added that it will amend the suit to include their real names once it learns them.
Twitch said both users began using bots to flood streamers’ chats with hate-filled messages in August. Despite multiple suspensions and bans, Twitch said the two continually created new accounts to continue their hate raid crusades.
According to the lawsuit, CruzzControl operated nearly 3,000 bots that were used to spam the discriminatory and harassing content. Meanwhile, CreatineOverdose used “their bot software to demonstrate how it could be used to spam Twitch channels with racial slurs, graphic descriptions of violence against minorities, and claims that the hate raiders are the KKK.”
Twitch didn’t just stop at accusations of hateful actions and rule-breaking. It even claimed the two users were so forceful in their efforts to attack creators that they pressured some to stop streaming altogether, “eliminating an important source of revenue for them.”
Twitch Users Demand Change
Twitch creators have long complained about hate raids, but a number of small creators began organizing a cohesive movement in early August following what appeared to be a growing number of hate raids.
Many demanded that Twitch address the situation by holding round tables with affected creators and enabling different features that would give them the ability to shut down incoming raids. Critics also called on the platform to provide detailed information about how it plans to protect creators moving forward. While Twitch did promise to implement fixes, a large portion of users weren’t satisfied with its messaging.
The bulk of users’ efforts culminated on Sep. 1 when various creators participated in #ADayOffTwitch, a one-day walkout designed to reduce traffic on the platform.
Despite Twitch’s lawsuit, a number of users have still said they won’t be completely satisfied with the platform’s actions until more is accomplished. For now, their primary goal is to have Twitch directly outline what steps it’s taking to prevent hate raids.
In its lawsuit, Twitch does make a cursory mention of several changes it said it’s introduced recently, including “implementing stricter identity controls with accounts, machine learning algorithms to detect bot accounts that are used to engage in harmful chat, and augmenting the banned word list.”
“Twitch mobilized its communications staff to address the community harm flowing from the hate raids and assured its community that it was taking proactive measures to stop them,” it added. “Twitch also worked with impacted streamers to educate them on moderation toolkits for their chats and solicited and responded to streamers’ and users’ comments and concerns.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BuzzFeed News) (Kotaku)
Streamers Protest Racist and Homophobic Hate Raids With #ADayOffTwitch
The creators participating in the walkout want Twitch to implement policies that actively combat hate-raiding.
Numerous Twitch streamers went dark on the platform Wednesday as part of a movement called #ADayOffTwitch, which participants have described as a way to stand “in solidarity with marginalized creators under attack by botting & hate-raids.”
The protest was organized last month after a smaller creator by the name of RekItRaven, who is Black and uses they/them pronouns, had their streams flooded with racist messages twice.
“This channel now belongs to the KKK,” dozens of users commented during the streams.
For RekItRaven, those messages also came at a particularly disparaging time, as they had just finished talking about how several traumatic experiences had shaped their life.
Following the stream, RekItRaven began using #TwitchDoBetter, saying, “I love Twitch. I love the community that I built there… BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN I HAVE TO ACCEPT BEING TREATED LIKE SHIT ON THE PLATFORM.”
Soon, RekItRaven’s concerns gained traction, prompting a number of other smaller creators to step forward with their experiences about being on the receiving end of hate-raids. Eventually, that morphed into Tuesday’s #ADayOffTwitch protest, which has been spearheaded by RekItRaven and two other small creators known as ShineyPen and Lucia Everblack.
The protesters are demanding that Twitch make several concessions moving forward. Those demands include the platform:
- Holding round-tables with affected creators to assist with the creation of tools that combat abuse on the platform.
- Enabling creators to select the account age for prospective chatters.
- Allowing creators the ability to deny incoming raids.
- Removing the ability to attach more than three Twitch accounts to one email address since hate-raiders can currently use a single email to register unlimited accounts.
- Providing transparency into the actions being taken to protect creators, including giving a timeframe for that implementation.
For its part, Twitch has already promised to implement fixes, saying on Aug. 20, “Hate spam attacks are the result of highly motivated bad actors, and do not have a simple fix.”
“We’ve been building channel-level ban evasion detection and account improvements to combat this malicious behavior for months,” it added. “However, as we work on solutions, bad actors work in parallel to find ways around them—which is why we can’t always share details.”
However, for now, creators must still deal with potentially being hate-raided while streaming, which is why their anger toward Twitch has persisted.
Do Small Creators Have a Big Enough Voice?
The protest led by mostly smaller creators is also almost entirely composed of them. Because of this, the vacuum of silence from large creators, who hold a disproportionate amount of influence on the platform, has also led to frustration.
Many have pointed out that large creators will publicly show their support for minority causes during events such as Black History Month and Pride Month, but smaller users said they feel abandoned when those same creators don’t also actively participate in causes that directly combat minority hate.
“Nobody gives a fuck if you take the day off. Nobody knows who you are That’s the truth,” streamer Asmongold, who has 2.4 million followers on Twitch, on a stream last month. “If people got together and they said, we’re all going to collectively do it, I would do it in a heartbeat. Right, I would do it. I’ve got no problem because I do believe in power in numbers, I absolutely do, which is why I don’t believe in this. Like, you can’t get a bunch of 20 Andy’s together and think that you’re going to do anything. Nobody gives a fuck.”
That said, some influential streamers have added their voices to #ADayOff Twitch. For example, both Rhymestyle and Meg Turney participated in Tuesday’s protest; however, both creators have hundreds of thousands of more followers outside of Twitch rather than on it.
A number of smaller creators have also argued that it’s not feasible for them to take a day off even though they want to support the cause. For example, taking a day off could jeopardize them keeping their affiliate or partner status, which could, in turn, jeopardize their channels.
Meanwhile, others have argued that outcomes such as those are exactly what hate-raiders want to achieve, so logging off Twitch for a day could be playing into their hands.
Others still said they wanted to participate but are contractually obligated to stream every day either because of sponsorships or other deals.
CallMeCarson Announces Return to Streaming Following Grooming Allegations
In his return announcement, the YouTuber promised to donate 100% of his proceeds to charity in hopes that he can “turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive.”
Popular “Minecraft” YouTuber and streamer Carson King, known online as CallMeCarson, announced Wednesday that he will return to streaming following accusations he faced earlier this year of grooming and sexting underage fans.
In a video titled “Moving Forward,” King said he would begin streaming on Twitch again on Sept. 1 as part of what he is calling a “Year of Charity.” For the next 12 months, King plans to donate 100% of his proceeds to different charities, selecting a new one each month.
“Before you start looking at this as an excuse to sweep things under the rug, that’s not what this is,” he explained in his video. “I’m doing this to turn a negative situation with a lot of eyes on it into something positive that can help a lot of people.”
King did not address the details of the allegations that have been levied against him. Instead, he said he wanted to focus on what he can do in the future.
“I’ve learned a lot this past year,” King said. “I’m not seeking forgiveness nor am I looking to make excuses.”
Grooming Allegations Made Against CallMeCarson
In January, members of his YouTube group The Lunch Club told “DramaAlert” that in March of 2020, King had admitted to grooming underage fans. They claimed to not know many details but stated that his confession ultimately led to the group disbanding. One former member, known as “Slimecicle,” even said he reported Carson to authorities.
The victims themselves ended up coming forward online. One, who identified herself as Sam, said Carson sent her sexually suggestive messages in 2019 when he was 19 and she was 17. She also posted Discord messages the two exchanged where King said he could not “control” himself and asked when she turned 18.
Another girl, who went by CopiiCatt, said King sent her nude photos when she was 17 and he was 20.
Following this, King took a hiatus online, and now, his return has been met with mixed reactions.
His “Moving Forward” video has been viewed over 1.2 million times, receiving 252,000 likes and just 14,000 dislikes.
On Twitter, however, more people expressed frustration with his return and were upset by the swell of support for King despite the accusations against him.