Google Cut Corporate Access of ‘Ethical AI’ Leader Who Dug into Firing of Prominent Researcher

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Tech giant Google has reportedly locked the corporate account of Margaret Mitchell, the leader of the company’s Ethical AI unit, who was reportedly looking into the controversial departure of another prominent Google AI researcher, Timnit Gebru.

CNET reports that Google has locked the corporate account of Margaret Mitchell, the leader of the company’s Ethical AI unit, after Mitchell criticized Google’s handling of the departure of another AI researcher, Timnit Gebru.

Breitbart News reported last December that Gebru alleges that 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.

Speaking to NPR, Gebru stated: “My theory is that they had wanted me out for a while because I spoke up a lot about issues related to black people, women, and marginalization. They wanted to have my presence, but not me exactly. They wanted to have the idea of me being at Google, but not the reality of me being at Google.”

Mitchell had allegedly been using automated software to scan old messages to find examples of discriminatory treatment towards Gebru. Google stated that it’s investigating the situation, saying:

Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered.

In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts.

Gebru commented on Google’s treatment of Mitchell, stating that hadn’t seen “a company that has this little shame in a while.”

The Alphabet Workers Union, a recently formed union that launched earlier this month, condemned Google’s action stating: “Regardless of the outcome of the company’s investigation, the ongoing targeting of leaders in this organization calls into question Google’s commitment to ethics — in AI and in their business practices.”

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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