What’s wrong with Google? After Timnit Gebru, search giant fires another AI ethicist Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell, the co-lead of Google's Ethical AI team, fired by Google

Margaret Mitchell, the co-lead of Google’s Ethical AI team, tweeted “I’m fired”. The news came months after Timnit Gebru, another AI ethics researcher and co-lead, was fired by Google. Mitchell was already being questioned for her use of office email. Also Read: Is Apple planning a Google Search rival?

Google’s public image: Google has come under heavy criticism for discrimination and harassment. The exit of Timnit Gebru, the Black researcher, drove protest at Google by thousands of workers. Both Gebru and Mitchell wanted a diverse group at Google and were suspicious of Google censoring study that was critical of its products. Mitchell had earlier called out Google for “alienating Black women”. Also Read: Google extends work from home for its staff till September 2021

She had tweeted “Say you have a problem with consistently alienating Black women and have caused serious damage in their lives. You could: A) try to undo that damage B) try to find more Black people to like you (the tokenism approach). Good luck…..”

The corporate email of Mitchell was locked since mid-January 2021 after it was reportedly claimed that she was looking for corporate correspondence for proof to back up Gebru’s claim. Also Read: Google, Facebook agreed to “cooperate and assist” each other against possible antitrust investigations, draft suit says: WSJ

Mitchell’s team was informed about her firing by Zoubin Ghahramani, Google AI research director, and a company lawyer. The investigators said Mitchell’s violations “included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees”.

Alex Hanna, an employee at Google tweeted, “Three months ago Google had two ethics co-lead. It has fired both and is running a smear campaign on them, to boot.”

She also added, Google is a breeding ground to abusers, opportunity hoarders, and people only concerned with ego and prestige. But anyone who is willing to defend friends against discrimination, who lift up voices who need to be heard, are shown the door.”


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