Colleagues back Google expert ‘fired over email’
Google employees have rallied behind an Ethiopian-born AI expert who they allege was subjected to “racism, gaslighting, censorship” and “a retaliatory firing” by management.
Timnit Gebru said on Thursday that she was fired “for my email to [internal Google group] Brain Women and Allies”.
She wrote that her corporate email had been deactivated, and so she could not share a copy of the email – but that Google told her that “certain aspects of the email you sent last night to non-management employees in the brain group reflect behaviour that is inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager”.
An earlier complaint filed by the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that Google unlawfully fired four employees for attempting to organise a union.
Google has two weeks to respond to the complaint. It denies doing anything unlawful.
Ms Timnit was one of the authors of a 2018 paper which concluded that AI facial recognition has difficulty identifying dark-skinned women – because the original datasets are mostly based on white men.
Earlier this year, she was interviewed in a piece for The New York Times titled A Case for Banning Facial Recognitio and why she believes it should not be used for policing.
Friday’s open letter backing Ms Timnit was signed by hundreds of her Google colleagues.