Sunday, September 26, 2021 | 08:13 am

Timnit Gebru: Google Boss Apologises for Row

Timnit Gebru: Google Boss Apologises for Row
Timnit Gebru Google Boss Apologises for Row

Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai has apologized for the way an AI ethics researcher left the firm – but stopped short of saying she was fired.

Timnit Gebru claims she was sacked after sending an internal email that accused Google of “silencing marginalized voices”.

Hundreds of colleagues have signed a letter in support of her.

Mr. Pichai said the firm needed to “assess the circumstances of her departure”.

The firm disputes her version of events.

Prior to her departure, Ms Gebru was the co-leader of Google’s ethical AI team and co-authored a research paper which she says she was asked to retract.

The paper had pinpointed flaws in AI language technology, including a system built by Google.

An open letter demanding to know why the paper was rejected has now been signed by more than 4,500 people including prominent researchers at Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and DeepMind.

In an email to staff, details of which were published by Axios, Mr. Pichai said: “We need to accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent, Black, female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily.”

In response to Ms. Gebru’s departure, the search giant should examine “where we could have improved and led a more respectful process”, he added.

Ms. Gebru responded on Twitter, calling it a non-apology.

Others responded to her tweet, saying the apology was “half-baked” and “not a good look for Google”.

The issue will be embarrassing for the search giant on two fronts. It has been criticized for a lack of diversity in its workforce, and there are concerns about the AI technology that underpins many of its services.