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After firing Timnit Gebru, Google is now investigating another researcher in its ethical AI division

Google has suspended the corporate account of Margaret Mitchell, Timnit Gebru’s former co-lead of the Big G’s ethical AI division, claiming she shared thousands of internal files with people outside the company.

A source told Axios that Mitchell had been using automated scripts to find messages showing discriminatory treatment of Gebru, whose recent ousting from the tech giant sparked outrage among colleagues.

A Google spokesperson said the company was investigating the incident:

Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered. In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today.

[Read: How Netflix shapes mainstream culture, explained by data]

Gebru tweeted on Tuesday that Mitchell had not been fired “yet,” but that the researcher would be locked out of her account “for at least a few days.”

Mitchell has been a vocal critic of Google’s treatment of Gebru since the researcher’s forced exit from the company in December.

Gebru said she was fired in retaliation for an email sent to colleagues that reportedly criticized the Big G’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion operation. Google executive Jeff Dean tweeted that she had resigned over conditions the company requested before publishing a research paper she co-authored on large language models.

Mitchell said her team had started using the term “resignated.”

Thousands of scientists to sign an open letter expressing solitary with Gebru. Her departure was also cited in the announcement of the Alphabet Workers Union.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has sought to quell the outrage, but his efforts have been criticized by employees — including Mitchell.

Hours before news broke of her suspension, the research scientist lambasted Google for “consistently alienating Black women.”

Her suspension will escalate the growing tensions between Google employees and management.

 

Published January 20, 2021 — 12:03 UTC

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