Timnit Gebru says she was fired after sending an internal email that accused Google of “silencing marginalised voices”.
Hundreds of colleagues have signed a letter accusing the search giant of racism and censorship, while Twitter users have rallied around Ms Gebru using the hashtag #BelieveBlackWomen.
She is an Ethiopian American computer scientist and, until December 2020, was the technical co-lead of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team at Google. She works on algorithmic bias and data mining. She is an advocate for diversity in technology and is a co-founder of Black in AI, a community of black researchers working in artificial intelligence. She was controversially fired by Google in December 2020.
Google’s Chief Executive Officer is Pichai Sundararajan, known as Sundar Pichai, is an Indian-American business executive. He is the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google. Born in Madurai, India, Pichai earned his degree from IIT Kharagpur in metallurgical engineering.
Google disputes her version of events.
Ms Gebru is a well-respected researcher in the field of ethics and the use of artificial intelligence.
She is well-known for her work on racial bias in technology such as facial recognition, and has criticised systems that fail to recognise black faces.
Her co-author on one of those well-known papers, Joy Buolamwini, said Ms Gebru “deserved more” from Google.
“Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand research integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics and algorithmic auditing,” she said.
“We owe her a debt of gratitude for advancing not just the field of artificial intelligence, but for advancing equality with humility and grace.”
What Occurred to Cause the Firing?
Ms Gebru alleges that as she was preparing to go on leave, she was called to a meeting about a research paper she had co-written.
She said she was ordered to retract the research paper and that Google was not prepared to engage in a discussion about the matter.
Following the meeting, she sent an email to an internal group called “Brain Women and Allies”, criticising the decision. A copy of the email has been published by Platformer.
“You are not worth having any conversations about this, since you are not someone whose humanity… is acknowledged or valued in this company,” she said in the email.
“Stop writing your documents because it doesn’t make a difference.”
You know these last 2 weeks were supposed to be my vacations and we’re currently on a road trip. Trying to find my email with my conditions that were so unacceptable to them, but one of them is basically point #1 here: https://t.co/8Qkcf6F2Yx— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) December 4, 2020
What Are People Saying About the Firing?
Drew Harwell tweeted “New from @nitashatiku and me: Google’s star AI ethics researcher @timnitGebru says she was fired after sending a critical email. Highly regarded, and one of few Black women in a senior AI role, she had told coworkers she felt “constantly dehumanized”.
I cannot count the number of times @timnitGebru has encouraged us, spoken out for us, defended us & stuck her neck out for us. She has made real sacrifices for the Black community.— Deb Raji (@rajiinio) December 4, 2020
Now it's time to stand with her!
Sign this letter to show your support.https://t.co/4Q4M8M7p2J
Source: BBC contributed to article. Photo: Getty Photos