Research integrity in AI and right to organise under threat at Google

More than 1,200 Google employees have protested following the dismissal of prominent scientist Dr Timnit Gebru who was studying the ethics and biases of artificial intelligence. Over 1,500 academic researchers have also signed a letter condemning the termination of the highly-respected scientist, who was the technical co-lead of Google’s Ethical AI team. Prior to joining Google, Gebru co-authored a widely cited 2018 paper that found higher error rates in facial analysis technology for women with darker skin tones.

The dispute arose when a manager at Google informed Gebru that she would have to either retract or remove her name from a paper she had co-authored that contended that technology companies could do more to ensure AI systems aimed at mimicking human writing and speech do not exacerbate historical gender biases. Google maintains that Dr Gebru has resigned rather than being terminated.

In the US, the National Labor Relations Board has also recently issued a complaint saying Google had unlawfully monitored and questioned several workers who were then terminated for protesting against company policies and trying to unionise the workplace.

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7 December, 2020