Google accepted the resignation of prominent AI researcher Timnit Gebru, who's known for her work on algorithmic and facial recognition biases. Gebru, an advocate of diversity in tech and one of the few Black women in a senior AI role, says she was effectively fired over an email that she sent to colleagues. The email had expressed her frustration over a managerial request to retract a research paper, as well as the company's alleged treatment toward women and minority employees.
- Gebru is technical co-lead of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team and a co-founder of Black in AI, a community of Black AI researchers.
- She's well known for her work with Algorithmic Justice League's Joy Buolamwini and others, which found higher disparities in facial recognition error rates between lighter-skinned males and darker females.
- Google recently asked Gebru to retract an AI ethics paper she co-wrote and submitted for submission at a conference. The company had wanted her to at least remove the names of Google employees from the paper, which examines ethical issues in language models.
- Gebru asked Google Research VP Megan Kacholia for an explanation. Without more discussions, Gebru said she would resign from the company.
- Subsequently, Gebru sent an email to company researchers, Google Brain Women and Allies, referring to the AI paper. She also made comments about how Google has failed to hire more women during the pandemic, among other concerns.
- The following day, Gebru said she received an email from Kacholia, reportedly approved by Google AI head Jeff Dean, saying that the company couldn't meet her demands and would accept her resignation.
- Google cited Gebru's email to brain group employees, saying it reflects "behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager."
- Gebru has since received support from fellow co-workers, AI experts, and others in the tech industry, including former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao, NY Times reporter Davey Alba, and Washington Post tech reporter Drew Harwell.
- "First and foremost I need an employment lawyer ASAP," Gebru tweeted.