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Google Employee Group Urges Congress to Strengthen Whistleblower Protections for AI Researchers


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The Google AI logo.

A letter published by Google employees describes the search engine giants decision to fire its AI ethics leaders a matter of urgent public concern that merits strengthening laws to protect AI researchers and tech workers who want to act as whistleblowers.

Credit: Google AI

Google's decision to fire its AI ethics leaders is a matter of "urgent public concern" that merits strengthening laws to protect AI researchers and tech workers who want to act as whistleblowers. That's according to a letter published by Google employees today in support of the Ethical AI team at Google and former co-leads Margaret Mitchell and Timnit Gebru, who Google fired two weeks ago and in December 2020, respectively.

Firing Gebru, one of the best known Black female AI researchers in the world and one of few Black women at Google, drew public opposition from thousands of Google employees. It also led critics to claim the incident may have shattered Google's Black talent pipeline and signaled the collapse of AI ethics research in corporate environments.

"We must stand up together now, or the precedent we set for the field — for the integrity of our own research and for our ability to check the power of big tech — bodes a grim future for us all," reads the letter published by the group Google Walkout for Change. "Researchers and other tech workers need protections which allow them to call out harmful technology when they see it, and whistleblower protection can be a powerful tool for guarding against the worst abuses of the private entities which create these technologies."

 

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