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Toxicity in tech: Why are Google’s leading AI ethics researchers being ‘silenced’?


About this ThinkIn

In the last three months, two of Google’s leading AI ethics researchers have left the company. Timnit Gebru, formerly co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team and co-author of a number of papers revealing bias in Google’s algorithms, announced she had been ‘forced out’ last December. She was followed in February by her colleague Margaret Mitchell, the other co-lead of the AI ethics unit. Both women had campaigned for more diversity at Google. It is problematic that companies have the responsibility to fund research that defines the ethical frameworks within which they work, and that the research firepower of tech companies dwarfs governments. Google X invests around $28bn per year in R&D while Darpa, for example, only invests $3bn.
Is the latest firing just a breakdown in communication between employer and employee. Or is it evidence that Google is silencing people who dare to seek, and surface, inconvenient truths about bias in its operating culture and AI products?

Is the latest firing just a breakdown in communication between employer and employee. Or is it evidence that Google is silencing people who dare to seek, and surface, inconvenient truths about bias in its operating culture and AI products?


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editor and invited experts

Alexi Mostrous
Editor and Partner

Mark Martin MBE
UK Black Tech

James Ball
Journalist and author of Post-Truth and Bluffocracy