More than 1,200 Google workers condemn the dismissal of their Artificial Intelligence ethics researchers

More than 1,200 Google employees and more than 1,500 academic researchers they massively condemned the dismissal of Timnit Gebru, a scientist studying the ethics of artificial intelligence, said she was fired by Google after the company tried suppressed their research and criticized their diversity efforts.

Gebru, who was the co-technical director of Google’s ethical AI team, wrote on Twitter Wednesday that she had been fired after sending an email to an internal group of women working in the company’s AI unit.

The email, which was first published by the technology newsletter Platformer, referred to a dispute over a research article, but more broadly expressed frustration at Google’s diversity programs.

Platformer, the newsletter that published the news of Gebru's dismissal.  Photo Screenshot

Platformer, the newsletter that published the news of Gebru’s dismissal. Photo Screenshot

There Gebru argued that “there is no responsibility” or a real incentive for Google’s leadership to change. “Your life gets worse when you start defending underrepresented people, you start upsetting the other leaders,” Gebru wrote. “There is no way that other documents, or more conversations, will accomplish anything.”

This is how the scientist told it on Twitter:

I would post my email here but my corporate account was terminated. I feel bad for my teammates, but it is better for me to meet the beast than to pretend. @negar_rz never had a clue things were going to escalate this fast.

The mail with the news

Google headquarters in Mountain View.  AP Photo

Google headquarters in Mountain View. AP Photo

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In the email in question, sent to the Google employee groups “Brain Women” and “Allies listserv”, Gebru, which she was fired last wednesdayShe was very hard on the company and even encouraged her colleagues to “stop writing documents because they don’t achieve anything” and complained that no one was listening to her at the company.

After sending that message, Gebru required his supervisors to change certain conditions in the workplace or else would leave the company, and the response she received from them was that, as they could not accept the conditions that she set, they accepted her resignation immediately.

“We believe that the termination of your employment should occur sooner than your e-mail reflects because certain aspects of the mail you sent to employees reflect behaviors that are not consistent with what expected of a director of Google“Her bosses replied, as she shared on Twitter.

Born in Ethiopia, Gebru graduated from Stanford University (USA) in Electrical Engineering and before joining Google she worked for Apple and Microsoft.

The engineer is particularly known for a study she led in 2018, together with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researcher Joy Buolamwini, in which they found that facial recognition systems fail more often when it comes to people with dark skin tones compared to those with light tones.

In addition to her work as one of the Ethics Directors at Artificial Intelligence, Gebru was particularly active within Google in recruiting and promoting black people, and she had been critical on several occasions with their employer for the treatment they receive in the company culture.

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