Google fires another AI researcher in spite of outcry of staff

20 February, 2021
Google fired the business lead of its Ethical Artificial Cleverness workforce, Meg Mitchell, escalating the turmoil surrounding its AI division following the acrimonious exit of Mitchell’s previous colleague Timnit Gebru.

In the aftermath of Friday’s firing, Google’s head of AI, Jeff Dean, tried to correct relations with the company’s staff, stating at an all-hands achieving that he took “some responsibility” for the break in trust with experts.

"I take some quantity of responsibility and I feel like other leads in the organisation as well have responsibility," Mr Dean stated during the meeting. "We realize that the ethical AI staff feels sort of aggrieved by your choice to ask some associates of that workforce to retract the paper and various other subsequent events."

Before, Ms Mitchell tweeted "I'm fired," adding she was "in too much pain to articulate a lot of anything useful. Firing @timnitGebru created a domino effect of trauma for me personally and all of those other team, and I believe we are staying increasingly punished for that trauma."

Ms Mitchell’s firing highlighted that even as Google tried to move past the disarray in its AI division with an apology, a leadership transformation and new policies, the upheaval showed zero sign of letting up.

Ms Mitchell had turn into a fierce people critic of Google and its own control after Ms Gebru’s exit. Ms Gebru, one of the few prominent Black women in AI exploration, explained she was fired in December after refusing to retract a study paper critical of an integral Google technology or remove the Google authors from it. The business has explained that she resigned. Ms Mitchell was a co-author of the paper. Former colleagues expressed outrage over Google’s managing of the matter.

The Alphabet company had accused Ms Mitchell of downloading files from its systems and said it could review her conduct. For five weeks, Ms Mitchell, who acquired co-led the Ethical AI team with Ms Gebru, was locked out of all corporate systems - unable to gain access to her email or calendar.

"After conducting an assessment of this manager’s conduct, we confirmed that there have been multiple violations of our code of conduct, in addition to of our security plans, which included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and individual data of other workers," a Google spokesman said found in a statement.

Ms Mitchell’s dismissal came the same evening that Mr Dean apologised within an email to personnel for how he handled Ms Gebru’s departure and pledged that executives will be graded on diversity improvement. Mr Dean likewise said Google would dual its recruiting staff focused on employee retention.

Alex Hanna, a researcher on Google’s Ethical AI crew, wrote that there’s a good double standard for carry out at the internet giant, alluding to allegations of sexual misconduct against past executives.

"Google is a good breeding surface to abusers, prospect hoarders, and persons only concerned with ego and prestige," Ms Hanna wrote about Twitter. "But anyone who's willing to defend good friends against discrimination, who lift up up voices who have to be heard, happen to be shown the door."

Mr Dean, in his email to staff, said Google’s behaviour toward Ms Gebru harm some female and Dark personnel and led them to concern whether they belonged at the business, but he didn’t apologise right to Ms Gebru.

The company announced a fresh organisation for the responsible make use of AI on Thursday, led by Marian Croak, a respected Black executive who had previously handled site reliability. But some customers of the Ethical AI workforce, who will report to Croak, sensed blindsided by the news headlines.

Later, at the personnel appointment, Mr Dean said wasn’t seeking to "punish anyone" by orchestrating the reorganisation of the company’s responsible AI work.

Ms Mitchell joined Google found in November 2016 after a good stint at Microsoft's exploration lab where she done the company’s Seeing AI project, a good technology to greatly help blind users "visualise" the environment around them that was heavily promoted by leader Satya Nadella. At Google, she founded the Ethical AI crew in 2017 and done projects including ways to explain what machine-learning designs do and their restrictions, and how to make machine-learning datasets more accountable and transparent.