Google AI head apologizes for dismissal of top researcher as company announces new diversity policies
Google’s head of artificial intelligence (AI) apologized for the dismissal of Timnit Gebru, one of its top researchers as the company announced new diversity policies.
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., sent an email to employees on Friday outlining the changes, a person familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News. In the email obtained by the news outlet, Google AI chief Jeff Dean apologized for the handling of Gebru’s exit.
The email was first reported by Axios.
“I understand we could have and should have handled the situation with more sensitivity,” Dean wrote in the email, according to Bloomberg. “And for that, I am sorry.”
Dean acknowledged that Google’s handling of Gebru hurt some female and Black employees and led them to question whether they belonged. However, Dean did not apologize directly to Gebru in the email.
The Hill has reached out to Google for comment.
The changes come after Pichai said in December that he would review the process that led to Gebru’s dismissal.
Gebru, who co-led Google’s Ethical AI team, claimed she was fired over an email questioning the censorship of a research paper on the environmental and ethical implications of large-scale AI models.
At the time, Dean pushed back on the notion that she was fired and shared an email saying that the company accepted her resignation. Thousands of employees signed a petition demanding transparency around her departure.
Pichai’s Friday email didn’t acknowledge what the review found but detailed several changes to how it handles research and employee exits, according to Axios.
Gebru expressed displeasure with the situation on Twitter on Friday.
“I expected nothing more obviously,” Gebru tweeted. “I write an email asking for things, I get fired, and then after a 3 month investigation, they say they should probably do some of the things I presumably got fired asking for, without holding anyone accountable for their actions.”
I expected nothing more obviously.
I write an email asking for things, I get fired, and then after a 3 month investigation, they say they should probably do some of the things I presumably got fired asking for, without holding anyone accountable for their actions. 1/ https://t.co/U2nmM07Dcm
— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) February 19, 2021
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