In 2018, when Google engineer Liz Fong-Jones was rallying fellow employees to oppose the company’s contract to do artificial intelligence work for the U.S. Department of Defense, she turned to techniques developed by Coworker.org, a nonprofit that supports employee activism.
Using Coworker’s guidelines, Fong-Jones set up petitions and gave her access to experts who were skilled at managing workplace actions. The effort succeeded: In the wake of employee protests, Google opted to stop selling AI software to the Pentagon.
Although Fong-Jones wasn’t initially aware of it, Coworker was backed by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay who has quietly become one of Facebook, Amazon and Google's biggest antagonists. His advocacy and investment organization, Omidyar Network, has supported a slew of efforts to reduce the power and influence of big tech companies, which he believes are harming consumers and stifling public debate.