Google Faces Ongoing Backlash from AI Researchers

Google CEO Sundar Pichai
Pool/AFP/Getty

Google is continuing to face strong criticism from the AI research community following the firing of two of the company’s top AI ethics researchers.

The Verge reports that tech giant Google is continuing to face significant backlash from its decision to fire Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, two of the company’s top AI ethics researchers who examined the downsides of tech that is integral to Google’s search products.

Breitbart News has reported extensively on the firing of Gebru and Mitchell. Academics in the AI ethics research community have shown their anger over the firings in multiple ways. Two researchers backed out of a Google research workshop, another turned down a $60,000 grant from Google, and a fourth researcher pledged not to accept funding from the company in the future.

Scott Niekum, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed the firing of the researchers, telling the Verge: “Not only does it make me deeply question the commitment to ethics and diversity inside the company, but it worries me that they’ve shown a willingness to suppress science that doesn’t align with their business interests.”

Deb Raji, a fellow at the Mozilla Foundation who works on AI accountability, commented: “It definitely hurts their credibility in the fairness and AI ethics space. I don’t think the machine learning community has been very open about conflicts of interest due to industry participation in research.”

David Baker, a former Google employee who resigned from his position as director of Google’s Trust and Safety Engineering group in February, commented on the firing of Gebru stating: “I was just blindsided to see and hear what happened to Timnit. It broke my heart.”

Baker added that he had loved his job at Google and refers to his last few years at the firm as “the happiest days of my life,” but he felt that quitting was the least he could do in order to show solidarity with Gebru. “I spent a couple of weeks thinking and talking with my wife and ultimately decided I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to work,” Baker said.

Read more at the Verge 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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