The clash between Google executives and the staff continues to intensify. The reason for the resignations by the workers is the commitments to academic freedom and management change in Google’s research organization.
Two Google employees, an engineering director, and a software developer have quit Alphabet’s Inc’s Google over the disagreement of AI researcher Timnit Gebru, it was a sign of the conflict which is going on over diversity and ethics.
David Baker, a director focused on user safety. He left Google last month after working for 16 years because of Gebru’s exit and added, “it distinguished my desire to continue as a Googler”. He also added, “We cannot say we believe in diversity, and then ignore the conspicuous absence of many voices from within our walls”.
Another Google employee Vinesh Kannan, a Software Engineer carried this to Twitter on Wednesday that he had left the company on Tuesday because Google ill-treated Gebru and April Christina Curley, a recruiter who stated of being wrongly fired. This came out to be surprising that both Gebru and Curley identify as Black.
Yesterday was my last day at Google. I left because Google's mistreatment of @timnitGebru and @RealAbril crossed a personal red line I wrote down when I started the job. I know I gained a lot from Google, but I also gained a lot from both of their work, and they were wronged.— Vinesh Kannan (@vineshgkannan) February 3, 2021
Google declined to comment anything, although pointed to previous statements. These statements show that it is looking to restore the trust of the employees after Gebru’s departure and it disputes Curley’s accusation.
The staff members are demanding commitments to academic freedom and management change in Google’s research organization. They are forwarding their resignations laid on these grounds. A union was made by more than 800 people supporting Gebru in the month of December 2020, where 2600 people out of 135,000 employees were in support.
Baker shared his resignation letter which he shared with an internal affinity group for Black employees, he even informed Reuters that he stood by his remarks. Kannan did not share an immediate comment.
Gebru, who was co-leading the AI ethics, stated that the orders were being pushed back on orders to pull research that Speech technology like Google’s could create a disadvantage for marginalized groups. Google also told certain staff members to not caste its technology in a negative light.
Google’s appalling treatment of Gebru has exposed a dual crisis in the AI research field. This field is dominated by the elite and mainly the white force, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, and Google. When Gebru was fired, the civility politics that harnessed the young effort to construct the necessary guardrails that have been torn apart. This brought a lot of questions about the racial homogeneity of the workforce of AI. This situation has left people with a thought in their minds that however sincere the company like Google’s promises may seem the corporate-funded research can never be separated from the realities of power, and the flows of revenue, ad capital.
This is not only one person’s concern; it is the concern of all. When we see AI growing and being used in almost all the domains like health care, criminal justice, and education, researchers, and advocates are raising such urgent concerns.
If we talk about the facial-recognition technologies, they have known to be “recognize” dark-skinned people less frequently in comparison to light-skinned people. This is one of the alarming things. But these racialized mistakes aren’t the only facial recognition problem. The director of organizing at Data for Black Lives, Tawana Petty points out the disproportionately which is deployed in the predominantly Black neighborhoods and cities.
In the same month later, in a Twitter post, Curley tweeted about her firing in September 2020, “THEY DO NOT WANT BLACK TALENT”. She also added, “Take it from me- their most successful BLACK QUEER WOMEN recruiter who they fired in the middle of the pandemic because they were tired of hearing me call them out on their racist bullshit”.
Take it from ME- their most successful BLACK QUEER WOMAN recruiter who they fired in the middle of a MF pandemic because they were tired of hearing me call them out on their racist bullshit.— Real Abril🌈 (@RealAbril) December 21, 2020
In one of the reverts by a Google spokesperson, he emailed to The Verge, “we don’t agree with the way April describes her termination, but it’s not appropriate for us to provide a commentary about her claims”.
In the middle of all this, Kannan also announced his resignation via Twitter on 3rd February. He also stated that the company’s treatment of Gebru and Curley had crossed a personal red line: “retaliation against a teammate who stands up for something I believe in”.
There was a buzz among almost 230 Google employees in January, building on years of employee activism. This news was reported earlier by The New York Times.
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