Margaret Mitchell Google, Margaret Mitchell, Google

Google fires top AI ethical expert Margaret Mitchell

Google on Feb 19 fired Margaret Mitchell, who co-led the company’s Ethical AI team, more than two months after the controversial ousting of Timnit Gebru, the team’s other leader. The move escalates a tense situation at a Google division already in turmoil.

Mitchell had been the subject of an investigation by Google for her treatment of company data. The Google manager had reportedly used automated software to go through her old messages to find examples of discriminatory treatment toward Gebru. Mitchell said she had been locked out of her corporate account for five weeks while Google conducted the probe.

“I’m fired,” Mitchell wrote Friday on Twitter. Mitchell didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Google confirmed the dismissal. “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,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.

Mitchell’s firing comes as Google faces blowback over the ouster of Gebru, one of the few prominent Black women in the field. Gebru in December announced she was fired over a research paper that calls out risks for bias in AI, including in systems used by Google’s search engine. Gebru also emailed a group of Google employees, criticizing the company’s diversity and equity programs. 

Gebru’s exit has caused widespread outrage among Google’s rank-and-file workforce and around the broader tech industry. Nearly 2,700 Googlers have signed an open letter in support of Gebru, and members of Gebru’s former team at Google sent a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding she be reinstated.

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