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Google ‘ethical AI’ unit leader tweets ‘I’m fired’ amid investigation into handling of documents

Google has fired a second member of its ‘ethical AI’ team after an investigation into why she allegedly downloaded thousands of internal documents and shared them with people outside of the company.

AI researcher Margaret Mitchell announced the news on her Twitter on Friday, simply writing: ‘I’m fired.’ 

Google had been investigating Mitchell after she reportedly used automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Timnit Gebru – another former employee in the AI team, who was fired last year, Axios reported.

AI researcher Margaret Mitchell announced that she had been fired from Google on her Twitter on Friday

Mitchell, who was a member of the company's  'ethical AI' team, simply tweeted 'I'm fired.'

Mitchell, who was a member of the company’s  ‘ethical AI’ team, simply tweeted ‘I’m fired.’

Mitchell's colleague Timnit Gebru was fired from the tech company in December

Mitchell’s colleague Timnit Gebru was fired from the tech company in December

Google announced on Friday it is changing its research and diversity policies, as well as employee exits

Google announced on Friday it is changing its research and diversity policies, as well as employee exits

Google announced on Friday it is changing its research and diversity policies, as well as employee exits from the company, after completing its investigation into the firing of Gebru, Axios reported.

The tech giant intends to tie the pay of certain executives to diversity and inclusivity goals, streamline its process for publishing research and enact new processes for handling the exits of potentially sensitive employees.

Marian Croak, a long-time Google employee who is black, was tapped to lead ethical AI work throughout Google’s research organization, Bloomberg News reported. 

The saga started when Google demanded that Gebru retract a paper she co-authored that scrutinized inherent racial bias in artificial intelligence, claiming it was not submitted properly.

Gebru’s team disagreed and she told management she would resign from her position, if certain conditions were not met, and work on a transition plan for her replacement.

Google immediately fired her while she was on vacation in December, provoking some engineers quit in protest. Mitchell was locked out of her corporate email account until she was fired on Friday.

Mitchell, pictured, has gone as far as to demand an apology from the company for the firing of Gebru

Mitchell, pictured, has gone as far as to demand an apology from the company for the firing of Gebru

Gebru claimed she was sacked for criticizing the diversity efforts within Google’s AI unit.

‘I understand we could have and should have handled this situation with more sensitivity. And for that, I am sorry,’ Google AI head Jeff Dean said in a memo on Friday, obtained by Axios.

He added: ‘I heard and acknowledge what Dr. Gebru’s exit signified to female technologists, to those in the Black community and other underrepresented groups who are pursuing careers in tech, and to many who care deeply about Google’s responsible use of AI. It led some to question their place here, which I regret.’

Mitchell said on Twitter that the firing of Gebru ‘created a domino effect of trauma’ for her and the rest of the team, which she co-led with Gebru. 

‘The firing of Dr. Timnit Gebru is not okay, and the way it was done is not okay,’ Mitchell said in a statement published online.

‘It appears to stem from the same lack of foresight that is at the core of modern technology, and so itself serves as an example of the problem.’ 

Mitchell wrote that the firing was ‘fueled by the same underpinnings of racism and sexism that our AI systems, when in the wrong hands, tend to soak up.’

‘Every moment where Jeff Dean and Megan Kacholia do not take responsibility for their actions is another moment where the company as a whole stands by silently as if to intentionally send the horrifying message that Dr. Gebru deserves to be treated this way,’ the statement reads.

Current and former google AI researchers took to Twitter to post about Mitchell being fired

Current and former google AI researchers took to Twitter to post about Mitchell being fired

Mitchell went as far as to demand an apology from the company for the firing of Gebru, claiming the company treated her ‘with intense disrespect.’ 

Other computer science researchers took to Twitter to voice their frustration over the firings of Gebru and Mitchell on Friday.

‘Google is a breeding ground to abusers, opportunity hoarders, and people only concerned with ego and prestige,’ wrote sociologist Alex Hanna, a member of the the company’s ethical AI team. 

‘But anyone who is willing to defend friends against discrimination, who lift up voices who need to be heard, are shown the door.’

Gebru also took to Twitter to comment on Mitchell’s firing, noting she had been sacked by an email to her personal email account.

‘There are many words I can say right now. I’m glad to know that people don’t fall for any of their bull,’ she wrote. ‘To the VPs at google, I pity you.’  


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