Google Allegedly Fired Black Researcher Over Email Criticizing Their Attitude Toward Underrepresented Voices

An Ethiopian-American woman who worked as the co-leader of Google’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence team, conducting research on facial recognition bias against Black people, said she was fired from her job after criticizing the company about its treatment of minority employees.

Timnit Gebru shared her story via Twitter on Wednesday, saying she was fired by the head of Google’s AI division.

“I was fired by Jeff Dean for my email to Brain women and Allies,” she tweeted, referring to a mailing group for company researchers. “My corp account has been cutoff. So I’ve been immediately fired.”

According to Platformer, Gebru was frustrated due to working on a research paper which was never published because of opposition from leadership at Google. The researcher sent an email to employee resources group, Brain Women and Allies, detailing the struggles she has experienced as a Black leader working on ethics research and showing concern about a seemingly bleak future for underrepresented minorities at the company.

“Stop writing your documents because it doesn’t make a difference,” the former Google employee wrote in her email. “Your life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people, you start making the other leaders upset when they don’t want to give you good ratings during calibration. There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything. We just had a Black research all hands with such an emotional show of exasperation. Do you know what happened since? Silencing in the most fundamental way possible.”

Platform also obtained a copy of an internal email which Dean sent to Google employees after Gebru was released from the company. The Google executive wrote in his email that the research paper was rejected because “it ignored too much relevant research.”

Dean said Gebru listed several demands for the company after her paper was rejected, including pressuring the executives to reveal who they had “spoken to and consulted as part of the review of the paper and the exact feedback.”

“Timnit wrote that if we didn’t meet these demands, she would leave Google and work on an end date,” the head of Google’s AI division wrote. “We accept and respect her decision to resign from Google.”

Detailing her own account on Twitter, Gebru revealed details of the email she received from her bosses when they decided to terminate her employment.

“Thanks for making your conditions clear. We cannot agree to #1 and #2 as you are requesting. We respect your decision to leave Google as a result, and we are accepting your resignation,” the email stated, according to the researcher.

Gebru also said Google fired her before she could resign because of the email she had sent to the Brain Women and Allies group.

“We believe the end of your employment should happen faster than your email reflects because certain aspects of the email you sent last night to non-management employees in the brain group reflect behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager,” the executives said, according to the social media post.

While Gebru received strong support from people on social media after telling her story, she also garnered assistance from her former company’s protest group, Google Walkout For Real Change. The group filed a petition which collected more than 400 signatures from employees at the company and more than 500 from people in the industry, Bloomberg reported.

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