Google chief apologizes after prominent Black employee is fired

Dr. Timnit Gebru co-lead the Google's Ethical Artificial Intelligence team.

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Google is in hot water after firing a Black scientist.

More than 2,000 Google employees have rallied together and signed an open letter calling Dr. Timnit Gebru’s firing, “research censorship” and a “retaliatory firing,” per NPR.

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The Google Walkout for Real Change group stands in solidarity with Dr. Gebru and wrote a letter to Google, calling for them to “to strengthen its commitment to research integrity and to unequivocally commit to supporting research that honors the commitments made in Google’s AI Principles.”

Photo: Getty Images

Gebru was terminated for a dispute over a research paper, then sent a note to other employees complaining about how the company treats women of color, especially during the hiring process.

Gebru previously co-led Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team and was one of very few Black women research scientists at the company, which boasts a dismal 1.6% Black women employees overall.

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Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai issued an apology on Wednesday, saying, “I’ve heard the reaction to Dr. Gebru’s departure loud and clear: it seeded doubts and led some in our community to question their place at Google.”

He continued, “I want to say how sorry I am for that, and I accept the responsibility of working to restore your trust.”

Gebru says Pichai painted her as a stereotype in emails to employees. And some employees agree that his statement is simply a formality and is “meaningless PR.”

Pichai added that the company needs to accept responsibly for Gebru’s departure, especially after they have openly committed to celebrating diversity at the company.

“This loss has had a ripple effect through some of our least represented communities, who saw themselves and some of their experiences reflected in Dr. Gebru’s,” he added. “It was also keenly felt because Dr. Gebru is an expert in an important area of AI Ethics that we must continue to make progress on — progress that depends on our ability to ask ourselves challenging questions.”

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