Google AI Crew Calls for Ousted Black Researcher Be Rehired And Promoted

Members of a prestigious research unit at Google have sent a letter to the company’s chief executive calling for the reinstatement of displaced artificial intelligence researcher Timnit Gebru.

Gebru, who studies the ethics of AI and was one of the few black scientists at Google, said she was unexpectedly fired after arguing over a science paper and talking for months about the need for more women and people of color in the giant.

In a letter that members of Google’s Ethical AI team sent to CEO Sundar Pichai on Wednesday, Gebru’s former colleagues are demanding that she be hired and promoted, among other things. This is evident from a copy of the notice received from NPR, which was first reported by Bloomberg.

“To offer Timnit back to her position at a higher level would go a long way towards restoring trust and rebuilding our team environment,” said the letter sent by Google employee Alex Hanna on behalf of Gebru’s Ethical AI team did before she was forced. “The removal of Timnit has had a demoralizing effect on our entire team.”

Since Gebru’s resignation earlier this month, more than 2,600 Googlers have signed an open letter expressing dismay at Gebru’s exit from the company and asking executives for a full explanation of why she was fired.

In the AI ​​team’s letter to Pichai, Gebru’s former colleague Megan Kacholia called on a vice president at Google Research who accused the researchers of bypassing the team’s direct line manager in order to fire Gebru to remove them from their reporting chain.

“We have lost trust in Megan Kacholia,” the researchers wrote, saying Gebru fired, “without warning rather than entering into a dialogue.”

Google, owned by parent company Alphabet Inc., didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Google has claimed Gebru resigned, despite Gebru saying it never voluntarily agreed to leave the company. In a corporate email following the episode, Pichai admitted that the incident “raised doubts and led some in our community to question their place on Google”. He worked to restore employee confidence and support independent research.

However, in their letter to him on Wednesday, the researchers doubted that their work could resume without major overhauls within the company.

Gebru helped build Black in AI, a group that supports black researchers in the field of artificial intelligence. She was also a co-author of groundbreaking facial recognition technology research that showed how people with color and women are far more likely to be misidentified than white faces. The study helped convince IBM, Amazon and Microsoft to stop selling the technology to law enforcement agencies.

At Google, Gebru’s former team wrote in Wednesday’s letter that researching ways to reduce the damage caused by AI to marginalized groups is key to their mission.

And they feared that Google’s “short-term interests and immediate income agendas” could get in the way of examining sensitive areas of study.

Last month, Google abruptly asked Gebru to withdraw a research paper focusing on possible biases in an AI system that tries to mimic human language. The technology supports Google’s search engine. Google claims the paper was not cleared for publication and that Gebru did not follow the company’s internal verification protocol.

Gebru and her supporters counter that she was targeted for speaking openly about issues of diversity, an issue that was underlined in the letter.

“Google’s short-sighted decision to fire and retaliate against a core member of the Ethical AI team makes it clear that we need swift and structural changes if this work is to continue and if the legitimacy of the entire field is to be maintained.”

The letter said Google’s front-runners are committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in its research units. However, unless more concrete and immediate action is taken, these promises are “signs of virtue”; they are harmful, evasive, defensive and show leadership’s inability to understand how our organization is part of the problem, “the letter reads.

The members of the AI ​​team also urge Google’s leadership to undergo training in literacy of races, arguing that “the toxicity” towards colored people in the Google research team “must stop”.

They say Jeff Dean, senior vice president of Google Research, and other executives involved in Gebru’s dismissal must be held accountable. You want Dean to apologize to Gebru. They also call on the Google management to stop calling their fall a resignation, since such a “gas light” has caused damage to Gebru and the black community at Google.

In the past, Google has resisted employees looking for change internally. The organizers of Google’s global strikes in 2018 over sexual harassment and other issues have been sacked by the company. More recently, the National Labor Relation Board accused Google of illegally firing workers who were involved in organizing unions.

This time, however, the researchers ask Google not to belittle, fire, or otherwise punish anyone who is involved in supporting Gebru.

“We know from Google’s retaliatory actions in the past that they often harm and marginalize workers without firing them directly, especially those who stood up for their colleagues,” the researchers wrote to Pichai.

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