Google fires founder of AI ethics programme

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·2-min read
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 25: The Manhattan Google headquarters is seen on January 25, 2021 in New York City. Google announced today that it will be opening up select Google facilities to serve as mass vaccination sites open to anyone eligible to receive the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. They will also commit to using more than $150 million dollars to promote vaccine education. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
The internet giant said its AI ethics head broke the rules on moving files outside the company, according to reports. Sky News reported that the company said there was an investigation into the matter last month. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Google (GOOG) has moved to fire the head and founder of its artificial intelligence (AI) ethics programme Margaret Mitchell, a move that follows claims about sexism and discrimination within the company.

The internet giant said she broke the rules on moving files outside the company, according to reports. The company also said there was an investigation into the matter last month.

Mitchell tweeted on Friday that she had been let go by the firm — a move that comes a month after her former peer Dr. Timnit Gebru was also dismissed. Mitchell had publicly voiced concerns about the dismissal and "its relationship to sexism and discrimination."

Reports said that Mitchell had been locked out of her corporate email, while still remaining an employee in the weeks preceding.

Yahoo Finance contacted Google for comment on the dismissal but had not heard back by the time of publication.

In a note published in a google doc and posted on Twitter (TWTR) earlier this month, Mitchell wrote: "The firing of Dr. Timnit Gebru is not okay, and the way it was done is not okay. It appears to stem from the same lack of foresight that is at the core of modern technology."

"The firing seems to have been fueled by the same underpinnings of racism and sexism that our AI systems, when in the wrong hands, tend to soak up. How Dr. Gebru was fired is not okay, what was said about it is not okay, and the environment leading up to it was not and is — not okay."

Dr. Gebru, co-leader of the ethical AI team, had left Google in 2020, and said that she was fired. The firm, however, said she resigned over a dispute regarding a research paper.

She had previously raised concerns about censorship at Google.

Watch: Firing Backlash Led to Google CEO Apology: Timnit Gebru