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Monday, July 22, 2024

Google fires founder and co-lead of its ethical AI team

Margaret Mitchell allegedly has violated the Code of Conduct and Safety Policy on multiple occasions. She is one of Google’s harshest internal critics.

After the much-noticed dispute with Timnit Gebru, co-head of its own team for ethics of artificial intelligence, Google has now fired the founder and leading employee of this team. Margaret Mitchell has been locked out of Google’s corporate system with emails and calendar since the previous month. Now she has announced her dismissal on Twitter.

Dr. Margaret Mitchell used automated scripts to search her email , according to a report by Axios . She wanted examples of the discriminatory treatment of her colleague Dr. Find Timnit Gebru. Google’s system automatically suspended Mitchell’s account when it suspected possible breaches of their code of conduct and security guidelines. This includes the external forwarding of internal documents and information.

Unethical handling of AI ethics?

Mitchell was on the same team as Gebru. Their departure in December 2020 is controversial and led to Google employee protests. There are different accounts of whether she left herself or was dismissed .

So far, it is only clear that the trigger of the dispute was the planned publication of a paper in which Gebru and colleagues criticized the dangers posed by large AI language models. Google had refused to release the publication when Gebru is named as co-author – officially because the paper “does not meet the requirements for a publication”. But the suspicion is in the room that Google wanted to get rid of an unpleasant critic in this way.

The fact that Google boss Sundar Pichai has now apologized for the incident in a memo and announced an internal investigation could not appease Gebru. The internal investigation was completed last week, but details of the results have not yet been released. Google just announced a number of changes to its policy , including tying executive pay across the company to diversity and inclusion efforts. Virtually at the same time, Mitchell announced on Twitter that she was fired .

Google’s critics and union

Like many of her fellow Google colleagues, Mitchell has expressed concern about his dealings with Gebru. The departure of Gebrus is related to sexism and discrimination, she said on Twitter earlier this month.

Google’s US employees have now formed a union . One of the reasons for this is dealing with internal critics like Gebru, but conflicts between Google and its employees have been simmering for several years. In early December, the US labor attorney filed a lawsuit against Google on behalf of two former Google employees for violating labor law. Both people were part of an internal Google movement to unionize.

As the new leader of the ethical AI team, Google has appointed Dr. Marian Croak deployed . Croak is a long-time dark-skinned Google employee and a prominent researcher. However, none of their work is directly related to ethical AI. Croak previously worked primarily in the Voice over IP sector.

Christopher Patillo
Christopher Patillo
Christopher Patillo is an accomplished writer and editor with a passion for exploring the intersections of technology, society, and culture. With a Master's degree in Journalism Patillo has contributed to various publications. His writing focuses on emerging trends in artificial intelligence, digital privacy, and the ethical implications of technology in everyday life. He is also involved in community outreach programs aimed at promoting media literacy among youth.

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