- One of Google’s best-known dissenting voices has quit the company after 14 years.
- Manu Cornet became notorious in the 2010s for his cartoons lampooning company policy.
- In a new interview with Insider, Cornet lifted the lid on his next collection of cartoons.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
One of Google’s most outspoken internal critics has revealed why he decided to quit the company after more than 14 years, saying “at some point I have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.”
In an interview published on Wednesday, software engineer and cartoonist Manu Cornet told The Information he disapproved of the company’s partnership with US Customs and Border Protection, its work developing a censored search engine in China, and the controversial ousting of two of its lead AI ethicists.
Since starting at Google in 2007, Cornet’s use of art to critique the company has become prolific, with ex-Google manager Claire Stapleton describing him to The Information as the tech firm’s “moral bellweather.” Cornet published a collection of his work, “Goomics”, in 2018.
Speaking to Insider at the time of publication, Cornet said: “I hope that it’s clear from the tone and the language that I really like the company. I think that it’s important for Google to retain a sense of humor. I think it’s good for our image in the long run.”
Cornet’s view of the company appears to have dimmed, however. He told The Information that Google’s lawyers tried to get him to cut some of his work from the book, at which point he “gave up and went rogue,” self-publishing it anyway.
The illustration Cornet is perhaps best known for is this cartoon poking fun at the organizational structures of some of tech’s biggest companies.
The drawing appeared in The New York Times, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella cited it on the first page of his book, “Hit Refresh,” writing that it was what persuaded him to change Microsoft’s culture.
“I almost didn’t release that one,” Cornet told Insider at the time. “This is probably the most popular of my illustrations, but I didn’t really think it was that funny. So this shows you how clueless I am at predicting what drawings people will like.”
His departure is unlikely to help Google combat a narrative of internal dissent, with many of the firm’s conflicts with employees spilling into the open.
Only on Saturday, Google AI chief Jeff Dean sparked a pile-on after tweeting to encourage marginalized groups to apply to a research program. Critics flagged the firm’s as-yet-unresolved battle with its two fired AI researchers, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell. Dean eventually deleted his tweet.
Cornet has now taken a software engineer role at Twitter, where he has begun publishing a new series of “Twittoons” internally.
Insider approached Google for comment.
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