Google has changed its research and diversity policies after recently sacking AI ethical team co-lead, Margaret Mitchell. The modification of its research and diversity policy has brought about a reorganization of Google’s AI teams working on ethics and fairness.
Margaret Mitchell was a colleague of Timnit Gebru and they both co-led Google’s ethical team for about two years. Gebru was the co-leader of Google’s ethical artificial intelligence research team, who parted ways with Google in December 2020, claiming that she was abruptly sacked because she criticized Google’s diversity policies and threatened to resign. Google, however, claims that Gebru resigned. Gebru later revealed, supposedly, that she was sacked by Google after she challenged an order not to publish a paper about the dangers of large language processing models. Megan Kacholia, Vice President of Google Brain, reportedly asked the article to be retracted.
Mitchell took to Twitter to vent about the handling of her former colleague which she deemed as unfair. Subsequently, Mitchell criticized and expressed her disapproval of Google’s diversity policy. On January 19 this year, Mitchell tweeted, “Say you have a problem with consistently alienating Black women and have caused serious damage in their lives. You could: A) try to undo that damage B) try to find more Black people to like you (the tokenism approach). Good luck…..” Here she called CEO Sundar Pichai’s meeting with Black college leaders as tokenism, and mere formality.
On Mitchell’s firing, Google has said in a statement, “we confirmed that there were multiple violations of our code of conduct, as well as of our security policies, which included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees.”
In line with Google’s modification on ethics and research policy, there will be tie pay for those at the Vice President level and above partly to reaching diversity and inclusion goals, streamlining of the process for publishing research, increasement of staff related to employee retention, and enactment of new procedures around potentially sensitive employee exits.
Nevertheless, Google’s Artificial Intelligence head, Jeff Dean, last week, has apologized to the staff on Gebru’s exit, in an internal email.