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Prominent AI Researcher Says Google Fired Her After Dispute Over Her Work, Impolitic Email

All Eyes on You: The Latest Tricks of AI Cameras at CES
All Eyes on You: The Latest Tricks of AI Cameras at CES
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A prominent artificial-intelligence researcher says she was fired by Google after she refused to retract a research paper and complained about the company in an email to colleagues.

Computer scientist Timnit Gebru, the co-head of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team, says her departure appears to have been precipitated by her email, sent last week to a wide group inside the search giant and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The email opened with “Hi friends,” and went on to criticize her superiors. Google executives squelched her research, she wrote, and ignored her feedback on issues like the proportion of female employees in the company.

Google Head of AI Jeff Dean, in an internal email, told staff that an internal team determined that Ms. Gebru’s most recent AI research was insufficiently rigorous. He also said she encouraged colleagues not to participate in Google’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs, and that he was disappointed about that.

Writing about how Google’s actions made her feel, Ms. Gebru wrote: “you are not someone whose humanity…is acknowledged or valued in this company.” Ms. Gebru, who is Black, often spoke publicly about what she called the failings of the technology industry on equality and diversity issues.

By this Wednesday, she says she was fired. “I was fired by @JeffDean for my email,” she wrote in a Twitter postthat tagged Mr. Dean.


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