When it comes to artificial intelligence, it seems that Google and ethics don't mix.
The tech giant is back in the news this week after Margaret Mitchell, who until Friday worked as the lead of Google's Ethical AI team, announced her firing via Twitter. Mitchell's unceremonious canning follows on the heels of Google firing the prominent AI ethicist Dr. Timnit Gebru in December.
"I'm fired," wrote Mitchell in her short statement.
— MMitchell (@mmitchell_ai) February 19, 2021
We reached out to Google to confirm that Mitchell was indeed fired on Friday, and to ask why she was fired. We received no immediate response.
Notably, Mitchell's and Dr. Gebru's departures appear to be very much connected. Mitchell had publicly criticized Google's actions toward Dr. Gebru, calling them "something very wrong."
Gday world. Entering week 5 of being locked out of work after witnessing something very wrong, wrought by my superiors, targeting @timnitGebru.Exhausted by the endless degradation to save face for the Upper Crust in tech at the expense of minorities' life-long careers.
— MMitchell (@mmitchell_ai) February 15, 2021
Mitchell further wrote that, following her criticism of Google, the company locked her out of her work accounts in January. According to Axios, Google did so after it discovered Mitchell was using "automated scripts" to search for examples of discrimination against Dr. Gebru.
I am concerned about @timnitGebru 's firing from Google and its relationship to sexism and discrimination. I wanted to share the email I wrote to Google press the day my access was cut off.https://t.co/O7JPlqJW8L
— MMitchell (@mmitchell_ai) February 5, 2021
Dr. Gebru's dismissal on Dec. 2 followed an internal email she sent addressing the lack of women being hired at Google, in addition to an internal debate about one of her research papers.
Google confirmed Mitchell's firing in a statement to TechCrunch.
"After conducting a review of this manager's conduct, we confirmed that there were multiple violations of our code of conduct, as well as of our security policies, which included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees."
Google hasn't always responded so harshly to alleged code of conduct violations. In 2018, Google made news when the New York Times reported the company paid Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, around $90 million on his way out the door following allegations of sexual misconduct.