Google CEO Sundar Pichai is apologizing for his company’s handing of the termination of its chief Artificial Intelligence (AI) researcher, a Black woman who raised concerns about racism in algorithms.
Pichai, in a memo published by Axios, claimed Dr. Timnit Gebru was not fired as she has claimed, but pledged to investigate the events that led to her departure and “work to restore” their trust.
“I’ve heard the reaction to Dr. Gebru’s departure loud and clear: it seeded doubts and led some in our community to question their place at Google,” the memo reads. “I want to say how sorry I am for that, and I accept the responsibility of working to restore your trust.”
Over 1,500 Google employees and 2,000 academic, industry, and civil society supporters have signed a petition protesting the firing of Timnit Gebru, a Black artificial intelligence ethicist and scientist. Gerbu claims she was fired by Google after raising concerns about the tech giant’s diversity protocols.
Last Wednesday (December 2), Gebru, in a series of tweets, revealed she was fired after she expressed frustration in an email sent to an internal group for women and allies working in the company’s AI unit about Google’s lack of diversity initiatives.
According to Gizmo, Gebru also wrote in an email, “Your life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people, you start making the other leaders upset,” Gebru penned in the email. “There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything.”
Reuters reports Gebru’s email stems from a November incident in which a Google senior manager told Gebru she’d have to retract or remove her name from a paper she had co-authored. The paper had concluded that tech companies are not doing enough to ensure AI systems do not exacerbate the use of offensive language or historical gender biases.