A former employee at British artificial intelligence (AI) developer DeepMind has accused the firm of mishandling multiple sexual misconduct allegations.
The former DeepMind employee – referred to only as Julia – claimed a senior researcher at the Alphabet owned firm sexually assaulted her twice after subjecting her to a campaign of sexual harassment.
In a letter seen by the Financial Times, Julia also said there had been major flaws in DeepMind’s handling of her complaint, as she claimed the AI firm had prioritised its own reputation over the safety of victims.
In outlining her allegations, Julia said the senior researcher had sexually assaulted on two separate occasions in 2019 – including once at her home and once after an event.
In August 2019, the senior researcher also sent over a six-page confessional document – written in the third person – alluding to various instances of sexual misconduct and other concerning behaviour.
The six-page document details the researchers’ own suicidal tendencies, and alludes to prior actions including a string of affairs with sex workers and the raping of unconscious women. Another document emailed to Julia in 2019 included graphic and degrading sexual depictions of her.
After Julia made a formal complaint about the behaviour in December 2019, having previously raised concerns around the researcher’s wellbeing in August 2019 , the senior researcher continued in his role until he was dismissed – without severance pay – more than a year later in September 2020.
Julia was also told she would face disciplinary action if she revealed details of the misconduct to anyone within the company, and was told not to enter the researcher’s building for her own safety.
In spite of this, Julia’s manager, who was only partially privy to the complaints, repeatedly pushed Julia into attending meetings in which the alleged harasser was based.
The DeepMind employee also said HR would regularly go weeks without contacting her, as she said she was repeatedly forced to put forward details of her case to several different members of staff, due to a lack of communication within the HR team.
Sources speaking to the FT also said the victim’s mental health had been used as an excuse to minimise the complaints, as they said employees with valuable technical skills were prioritised over those without them.
In a statement, DeepMind said: “The allegations were investigated thoroughly, and the individual who was investigated for misconduct was dismissed without any severance payments. We expect everyone – regardless of their role or seniority – to behave in a way that lives up to our values.”
The tech firm said it has “implemented several new and enhanced workplace policies and practices to ensure they are aligned with the guiding principles of creating a respectful, safe, and inclusive working environment for all employees” since May 2020, including “enhanced annual training” for managers and employees.