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Senate Democrats urge Google to conduct racial equity audit

Senate Democrats urge Google to conduct racial equity audit
© Greg Nash

A group of Senate Democrats is urging Google and its parent company Alphabet to conduct a racial equity audit, citing concerns over the company’s algorithms, products and workplace environment. 

“We can no longer rely on promises and need Alphabet to take affirmative steps to protect Black people and other people of color. A racial equity audit is long overdue,” the senators wrote in a letter Wednesday. 

The letter led by Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerThousands sent to emergency rooms every year due to violent police encounters: investigation Democrats fear they are running out of time on Biden agenda Harris casts tiebreaking vote to confirm OPM nominee MORE (D-N.J.) comes more than a month after civil rights organization Color of Change launched a petition also urging the Silicon Valley giant to conduct a racial equity audit. 

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The Democrats said they are “concerned about repeated instances where Alphabet missed the mark and did not proactively ensure its products and workplaces were safe for Black people.” 

They called out the algorithms of Google Search and YouTube over accusations of perpetuating “racist stereotypes and white nationalist viewpoints.” 

The letter also cited the high-profile dismissal of top Google AI ethicist Timnit Gebru

In December, Gebru said she was fired after she was asked to retract a paper detailing ethical considerations of an AI technology used in Google’s search engine. Thousands of Google employees rallied behind Gebru and signed a petition protesting her dismissal. 

Google has pushed back on Gebru’s claims and has said her dismissal was an acceptance of her resignation. 

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“As Congress and the federal government do more to protect communities of color from civil rights violations online, companies need to do their part by examining areas for improvement and ensuring their workplaces are safe for members of these communities,” the Democratic senators wrote. 

The letter was also signed by Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHeat wave sparks historically unseasonable wildfires in West Biogen opens door to adjusting price of Alzheimer's drug amid outcry Overnight Health Care: White House acknowledges it will fall short of July 4 vaccine goal | Fauci warns of 'localized surges' in areas with low vaccination rates | Senate Finance leader releases principles for lowering prescription drug prices MORE (Ore.), Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBiden at Sen. John Warner's funeral: He 'gave me confidence' White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure Biden risks break with progressives on infrastructure MORE (Va.), Ed MarkeyEd Markey'Fairplay' to launch campaign for children's online protection 'Killibuster': Democratic angst grows as filibuster threatens agenda Biden risks break with progressives on infrastructure MORE (Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.). 

A spokesperson for Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.