Google’s head of artificial intelligence apologizes for firing prominent researcher as company announces new diversity policies

Google’s head of artificial intelligence (AI) apologized for firing Timnit Gebru, one of its principal investigators as the company announced new diversity policies.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc., sent an email to employees on Friday outlining the new changes, a person familiar with the situation said. Bloomberg News. In the email obtained by the news outlet, Google’s head of artificial intelligence, Jeff Dean, apologized for handling Gebru’s departure.

Email was the first reported by Axios.

“I understand that we could and should have handled the situation with more sensitivity,” Dean wrote in the email, according to Bloomberg. “And for that, I’m sorry.”

Dean acknowledged that Google’s handling of Gebru hurt some black employees and women, and led them to question whether they belonged. However, Dean did not directly apologize to Gebru in the email.

The Hill has reached out to Google for comment.

The changes come after Pichai said in December that it would review the process that led to Gebru’s firing.

Gebru, Co-Chair of Google’s Ethical AI Team, claimed she was fired via email questioning the censorship of a research paper on the environmental and ethical implications of large-scale AI models.

At the time, Dean rejected 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 their departure.

Pichai’s email Friday did not acknowledge what the review found, but detailed several changes to the way it handles the investigation and employee departures, according to Axios.

Gebru expressed his disgust at the situation on Twitter on Friday.

“I was not expecting anything else obviously”, Gebru tweeted. “I write an email asking for things, they fire me, and after a 3-month investigation, they say they should probably do some of the things that they presumably got fired me asking for, without holding anyone accountable for their actions.”


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