Google has found itself in hot water yet again over its handling of workers’ rights, following the forced resignation of Timnit Gebru. Ms. Gebru worked as a co-lead for the search giant’s Ethical AI research team and was let go after refusing to retract a scientific paper. Specifically, the paper detailed challenges and potential harm caused by “Google-like” tech.
Ms. Gebru reportedly responded by questioning the demands from her employer. Google accepted her resignation in response to the questions.
Now, Google employees on the Ethical AI research team are calling for action to address the forced resignation.
What exactly are Google workers demanding?
Summarily, members of Google’s Ethical AI research are demanding that the company start by ‘sidelining’ the manager who fired Ms. Gebru. That’s Vice President Megan Kacholia, who made the decision without input from Ms. Gebru’s box. The team also calls for a commitment to more academic freedom, an explanation of the dismissal, and more transparency. Specifically, that’s transparency as it pertains to scientific papers authored by staff.
Ms. Gebru is the co-founder of the nonprofit Black in AI, as well as co-authoring a paper examining the bias in facial analysis technology.
Moreover, the employees are calling for an investigation into how the company handles employee complaints. In particular, as that pertains to complaints about working conditions, which are something Ms. Gerbu shined a light on during her time at Google.
This extends well beyond an internal scuffle over a forced resignation
Now, Google and Ms. Kacholia have not presently released any statements and the exact details about those who wrote up the documents containing the employees’ demands. But it isn’t just Google workers who are concerned about internal policies and the handling of these types of situations.
US Representative Yvette Clarke and Senator Elizabeth Warren, alongside several other Congressional leaders, have released a public letter on the matter. The group published the letter on December 16 and directed it toward Alphabet Inc Chief Executive Sundar Pichai.
The letter requests more information from the executive about the handling of this incident. Specifically, whether or not plans are in place to review the dismissal and what the companies policies are when it comes to publishing research papers.