Google Fires AI Ethics Researcher in ‘Unprecedented Research Censorship’

Former Google AI Ethics Researcher Timnit Gebru
Kimberly White /Getty

Prominent AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru alleges that her firing from Google is an act of “unprecedented research censorship.” The Masters of the Universe at Google fired Gebru after she refused to retract an academic paper critical of the company’s AI technology.

Wired reports that artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru alleges that last month she was approached by a manager at Google and asked to retract or remove her name from a research paper that she had coauthored as an internal review at Google found the contents of the paper objectionable.

The paper discussed ethical issues raised by advances in artificial intelligence working with language, an area of research that Google believes is important to the future of its business. Gebru objected to retracting the paper or removing her name from it, calling the practice unscholarly. A short time later she was fired by the Silicon Valley giant. A Google spokesperson alleges that she resigned and was not fired but declined to comment further.

Gebru tweeted about the firing and issues she faced, the tweets can be seen below:

Since then, Gebru has received major support from AI researchers at Google and elsewhere including Microsoft and chipmaker Nvidia. Many claim that in firing Gebru, Google had tarnished its reputation in the AI research field. More than 200 Google employees signed an open letter calling on Google to release details of its handling of Gebru’s paper and to commit to “research integrity and academic freedom.”

Gebru says that she refused to retract her paper or remove her name from it out of concern for the future of AI ethics research at Google. “You’re not going to have papers that make the company happy all the time and don’t point out problems,” she said. “That’s antithetical to what it means to be that kind of researcher.”

Gebru, a black woman, also stated that she believes her comments about the lack of diversity among Google’s workforce and the treatment of minority employees may have contributed to her dismissal from the company.

This is far from the first time Google has been accused of unfairly dismissing an employee. Breitbart News reported this week that a recent complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleges that Silicon Valley giant Google violated U.S. labor laws by spying on workers who were organizing employee protests before firing two of them. The complaint names two former Google employees, Laurence Berland and Kathryn Spiers, who were fired from the company in Late 2019 in connection with employee activism.

Read more at Breitbart News here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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