Google is at it again. After firing Timnit Gebru over her research paper's'unacceptable' content, the company is now investigating Margaret Mitchell, co-leader of Google's Ethical AI team. According to Axios, Google found out Mitchell has been using automated scripts to go through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment against Gebru before her account was locked. She had been allegedly documenting critical issues surrounding Gebru's firing. As per the statement provided by Google to Axios, their system detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts.
AI and ML systems have advanced in both sophistication and capability at a staggering rate in recent years. They can now model protein structures based only on the molecule's amino-acid sequence, create poetry and text on par with human writers -- even spot specific individuals in a crowd (assuming their complexion is sufficiently light). But for as impressive as these feats of computational prowess are, the field continues to struggle with a number of fundamental moral and ethical issues. A facial recognition system designed to identify terrorists can just as easily be leveraged to monitor peaceful protesters or suppress ethnic minorities, depending on how it is deployed. What's more, the development of AI to date has been largely concentrated in the hands of just a few large companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon and Facebook, as they're among the few with sufficient resources to pour into its development.
Google has fired the co-lead of the company's ethical AI unit, Margaret Mitchell, on the heels of the removal of Timnit Gebru. Mitchell, an ethical artificial intelligence (AI) expert who has previously worked on machine learning bias, race and gender diversity, and language models for image capture, was hired by Google to co-lead the firm's Ethical AI team with Gebru -- a post that has lasted roughly two years, as noted by Reuters. On Friday, Mitchell announced her departure in a tweet, simply saying "I'm fired." Google said in a statement that following a review, "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." Mitchell has been the subject of an investigation by Google and was locked out of her corporate account for roughly five weeks. Reports suggest that the scientist may have been looking for correspondence and evidence relating to Gebru's removal.
The row within Google's Ethical AI team is set to escalate after a second researcher was fired in the space of three months. Lead artificial intelligence ethics researcher Margaret Mitchell was fired on Friday following the tech giant's controversial dismissal in December of her black colleague Dr. Timnit Gebru. Gebru, an outspoken diversity advocate and well-respected researcher in the field of ethics and the use of artificial intelligence, said she was fired from Google for sending an internal email accusing the company of "silencing marginalized voices." In a statement about Mitchell's dismissal, Google said it had "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." Sources suggest that Mitchell may have been looking for corporate correspondence that could have supported Gebru's claim of harassment and discrimination.
Margaret Mitchell, the co-lead of Google's Ethical AI team, says that the company has fired her following an investigation into her use of corporate email. Why it matters: Google was already under fire for its ouster of Timnit Gebru, the other co-lead of the team. Mitchell has been locked out of the corporate email since last month after what a source says was her effort to search corporate correspondence for evidence to back up Gebru's claim of discrimination and harassment. The move comes the same day that Google announced internally it had completed its investigation of Gebru's exit, as Axios first reported. The company didn't release the findings of that investigation, but announced a series of policy changes, including tying executive pay companywide to diversity and inclusion efforts.