Artificial Intelligence: After Gebru, Google Has A Brush With Second AI Researcher

January 20, 2021 | Artificial Intelligence, News

Google has allegedly locked AI researcher Margaret Mitchell out of corporate systems.

Margaret Mitchell, the leader of Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Ethical AI team, has seemingly run into problems with the company. Like her erstwhile Black colleague Timnit Gebru, who departed last month in controversial circumstances, Mitchell too is an outspoken critic at the company. Gebru revealed in a tweet Tuesday that Google had locked Mitchell’s corporate access. (Bloomberg|The Quint)

“I’m wondering if she’s going to get an email to her personal email accepting her “resignation.” I have not seen a company that has this little shame in a while,” Gebru tweeted.

Response from Google

A Google spokesman stated to Bloomberg: “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. We explained this to the employee earlier today.”

“We are actively investigating this matter as part of standard procedures to gather additional details.”

Mitchell did not respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.

The dispute with Gebru

Gebru says she was sacked by Google for being critical of the diversity efforts at the company’s AI unit.

Apparently, she was asked to retract a research paper that warned on the dangers of large language algorithmic models. These models train on huge collections of English text from the internet. According to Gebru and her co-authors, inherent biases, such as race and sex, transfer from those writings to the algos.

The company’s version is that it did not fire Gebru, but accepted her “resignation.”

Unhappy with Google’s handling of the issue, employees formed a minority union at Alphabet, Google’s parent firm.

Axios first reported that Google was investigating recent actions by Mitchell.

A source told Axios that Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Gebru.

Related Story:    Google Apologises for Racist Bias in Result From Algo

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons    

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