Google investigates AI researcher Margaret Mitchell, AWU


The Google Employees’ newly formed Alphabet Workers Union said it was concerned with Google’s decision to exclude senior AI moralist researcher Margaret Mitchell from her account.

Google found that she was forced to leave the company last month after downloading material related to another AI Ethics researcher, Timneet Gabru.

The news was first reported by Axios on Wednesday, stating that Google is investigating Mitchell’s recent actions. Mitchell allegedly traced instances of Gabru’s discriminatory treatment using automated scripts to see through his messages.

“Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) is concerned with the suspension of corporate access to Margaret Mitchell, AWU member and leadership of the Ethical AI team,” the union said in a statement. “This suspension comes at the height of the firing of Google’s former co-head Timneet Gabru, plus it is an attack on those trying to make Google’s technology more ethical.”

Google did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment, but a spokesperson told Axios: “Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they find that the account is due to credential issues There is a risk of compromise or when an automated rule is involved that triggers the handling of sensitive data. “

The spokesman said: “In this instance, yesterday our system found that one account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today.”

Gabru’s farewell

Gabru, who was the technical co-head of Google’s Ethical AI team, Tweeted on 3 December Google fired him, disagreeing about a research paper investigating bias in artificial intelligence. The researchers, who were vocal about the company’s treatment of black employees, claimed that the treatment was indicative of a broader pattern at Google. It generated a wave of support from across the industry, including a petition signed by thousands of Google employees and industry peers.

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai emailed employees, apologizing for mistrust in the company and industry after Gabru left, while the company said it would begin a “review” of what went wrong.

Roughly a week later, Google’s Ethical AI team sent Google officials a list of demands to “rebuild trust” after Gaboru was fired from the company.

The team, which says it advises on research, product and policy, wrote a six-page letter to Pichai, AI chief Jeff Dean and an engineering vice president, Megan Kacholia. The letter, titled “The Future of Ethical AI at Google Research” and viewed by CNBC, lists officials’ demands, including removing Kacholia from the group’s reporting structure, avoiding retaliation and restoring Gabru to a higher level is.

Who is Margaret Mitchell?

Mitchell founded Google’s Ethical AI team and is one of the co-leads. AWU described him as an “important member” of the academic and industry communities around the ethical production of AI. According to LinkedIn, he has been with Google for just four years and is based in Seattle.

“Regardless of the outcome of the company’s investigation, the ongoing goal of leaders in this organization is called into question Google’s commitment to ethics – AI and their business practices,” AWU said. “Many members of the ethical AI team are AWU members and our union membership recognizes the important work they do and stands in solidarity with them in the moment.”

Citing Google’s statement to XUIS, AWU stated that “this is a notable departure from Google’s specific practice of refusing to comment on personnel matters.”

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