Dr. Timnit Gebru, an AI ethics researcher for Google, was fired last Wednesday for refusing to alter a paper about bias and for complaining about it via email to her colleagues. (Source: YouTube video)

Diversity Efforts Researcher Says Google Removed Her Due to Paper, Email Complaints

Timnit Gebru said on Twitter she was fired last Wednesday after sending an email to colleagues voicing her frustration over the lack of gender diversity in Google’s AI unit. She also said she believed company leaders reviewed her work more critically than that of people from different backgrounds, according to a story from Reuters.com.

Gebru, who is black, co-founded the nonprofit Black in AI that aims to increase the representation of people of color in AI and co-authored a landmark paper on bias in facial analysis technology.

A story in the New York Times said Gebru claimed to be fired over a research paper on AI bias. Hundreds of staff members at Google signed a letter supporting Gebru and accused Google of racism and censorship, according to a story on BBC.com.

Gebru said she was called into a meeting and asked to retract a research paper she’d co-written. A manager told her she’d resigned via email, though she said she had not.

AI justice activist Joy Buolamwini told the BBC that Dr. Gebru “deserved more” from Google.

“Ousting Timnit for having the audacity to demand research integrity severely undermines Google’s credibility for supporting rigorous research on AI ethics and algorithmic auditing,” she said. “We owe her a debt of gratitude for advancing not just the field of artificial intelligence, but for advancing equality with humility and grace.”

Her firing came a day after the U.S. National Labor Relations Board alleged that Google illegally fired employees for union activity. Timnit had sent an email to other members of her workgroup at Google, after which she was asked to leave the company.

According to theguardian.com, the NAACP is looking into the firing.

“Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote on Twitter that Gebru’s firing was ‘absolutely infuriating’ and ‘a disaster.’

About 800 Google employees and over 1,100 supporters from academia and the industry signed a letter of protest.

read more at theguardian.com