By any measure, Google is a colossus of the tech industry, with a market capitalization of nearly $1.5 trillion , a massive army of lobbyists , and elite academics at its disposal . But lately, its reputation has been hurt by a highly publicized feud with well-respected ethical AI researchers, and revelations about its toxic workplace, previously hidden under NDAs , are roiling the tech giant’s PR-spun Disneyland-like facade. Now, it’s facing a multitude of challenges including talent attrition, resistance from an increasingly influential union, and increased public scrutiny. Privacy-centered competitors are nipping at its ankles, antitrust regulations loom on the horizon, and user interest in de-Googling their online activities is mounting. These headwinds are threatening the tech giant’s seemingly unassailable industry dominance and may bring us closer to a “de-Googled” world, where Google is no longer the default. At war with its workers In December 2020, the tech giant dismissed eminent scholar Timnit Gebru over a research paper that analyzed the bias inherent in large AI models that analyze human language—a type of AI that undergirds Google Search. Google’s whiplash-inducing reversal on ethics and diversity as soon as its core business was threatened was not entirely surprising. However, its decision to cover this up with a bizarre story claiming that Gebru resigned sparked widespread incredulity. Since Gebru’s ouster, Google has since fired her colleague Margaret Mitchell and restructured its “responsible AI” division under the leadership of another Black woman , now known to have deep links to surveillance technologies. These events sent shock waves through the research community beholden to Google for funding and triggered much-needed introspection about the insidious influence of Big Tech in this space . Last week, the organizers of the Black in AI, Queer in AI, and Widening NLP groups announced their decision to end their sponsorship relationship with Google in response. While the prestige and lucrative compensation that comes from working at Google is still a huge draw for many who don’t consider these issues a dealbreaker, some, such as Black in AI cofounder and scholar Rediet Abebe , were always wary. As Abebe explained in a tweet, her decision to back out of an internship at the tech giant was triggered by Google’s mistreatment of BIPOC, involvement with military warfare technologies, and ouster of Meredith Whittaker , another well-known AI researcher who played a lead role in the Google Walkout in 2018 . Abebe is not the only one who has decided to walk away from Google. In response to this latest AI ethics debacle, leading researcher Luke Stark turned down a significant monetary award , other talented engineers resigned , and Gebru’s much-respected manager Samy Bengio also left the company. A few years back this level of pushback would be unimaginable given Google’s formidable clout, but the tech giant seems to have met its match in Gebru and other workers who refuse to back down. Even with its formidable PR machinery spinning out an announcement touting an expanded AI ethics team, the damage has been done, and Google’s misguided actions will hurt its ability to attract credible talent for the foreseeable future. More ex-employees are also coming out with details of their horrifying experience s, adding fuel to the rising calls for better employee protections. These disclosures have renewed support for tech workers as hundreds of Google employees unionized after many years of activism, despite union-busting efforts by their employer.