Google fires another AI Ethics lead while promising to do better

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Google logo (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Margaret Mitchell has just been fired from Google, just a few months after Timnit Gebru was dismissed.
  • The dismissal comes just a day after Google announced a new AI head and restructuring of its teams.
  • Google also announced that it's reworking some of its policies.

Google has just fired its former AI Ethics lead, Margaret Mitchell, after conducting an internal investigation on actions it deemed violated its code of conduct (via Axios). She announced the dismissal in a tweet on Friday.

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The development comes after Mitchell was locked out of her corporate account for a month while still employed at the company. She had attempted to search corporate email for examples of discrimination against former AI Ethics lead, Timnit Gebru, who was dismissed late last year following her criticism of Google's AI technologies that are found in many applications and used in today's best Android devices. Mitchell had used a script to automatically search through thousands of files to help prove Google's mistreatment of Gebru, something that was discovered by the company thus prompting it to lock her out of her account.

Google conducted an internal investigation on Mitchell following the lockout, which apparently concluded with her firing:

After conducting a review of this manager's conduct, we confirmed that there were multiple violations of our code of conduct, as well as of our security policies, which included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees.

Meanwhile, Google recently announced that it was restructuring its AI teams under a new overseer, Marian Croak, an executive at the company who was involved in the aftermath of Timnit Gebru's firing. Gebru saw the move as an example of gaslighting while effectively assigning Black women as "interchangeable". Gebru was also not particularly pleased to learn of Google's new policy changes that were reported by Axios, in which the company will "tie pay for those at the vice president level and above partly to reaching diversity and inclusion goals," among several other policies to try to foster a more inclusive work environment.

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While Google's internal investigation of Timnit Gebru's dismissal may be over, the situation has caused much friction within the company from employees who had come to her defense. At one point, Google was sent a list of demands from employees, asking to make policy changes within the company and to reinstate Gebru at a higher position. Employees have also expressed that the company's moves continue to blindside them, such as the recent decision to restructure the AI teams under one person or a policy change last summer that advised employees to try to "strike a positive tone" in their papers.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.

  • Well, at least they were upfront with her, rather than just ghosting her like so many GoogleTube users.
  • I don't know why she expected to still have a job after handing over a bunch internal documents to an exemployee.
  • Where does it say she handed them over to an ex-employee? I'm not seeing that here or in the linked Axios article.
  • Goggles own statement of what led to the initial lockout. ”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.”
  • She blatantly violated security protocols and expects to be given a pat on the back? Just like the Timnit idiot who thought she was indispensable, again blatantly doing exactly what she was told to not do then giving Google an ultimatum by threatening to leave if she didn't get her way. Google rightly said, "Bye!". The "woke" crowd is being played by these idiots who are weaponizing their race/gender to bully other people.
  • Huh all these ethics AI people being's almost as if they have no ethics...but sure tick all the right boxes...
  • "Let's fire the ethics people and burn down that department. That way we can get away with whatever." Said Google.
  • The first lady should not have been fired. This one was obviously trying to support her by getting info, but she had to know she wasn't going to get away with that. No company is going to let her do what she did. I'm surprised she wasn't fired faster. And just like every other company, they say they want honesty, and to be socially responsible. But the second that interferes with their profit margins, they'll find a way around it.