Google CEO apologizes after AI researcher's dismissal, is sorry it 'seeded doubts'

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Google CEO Sunday Pichai sent an email to employees Wednesday apologizing for the way company handled the dismissal of AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru earlier this month, according to Axios.

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"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," Pichai wrote in the email, according to Axios. "I want to say how sorry I am for that, and I accept the responsibility of working to restore your trust."

Gebru, a Black scientist, was working on a paper that cited potential bias and environmental problems linked to computer systems that analyze human language.

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Leadership at Google had concerns about the quality and timing of the paper, but Gebru responded by saying that she would resign if a list of demands were not met. She also sent an email with the subject line, “Silencing Marginalized Voices in Every Way Possible,” to an internal diversity group about the controversy

Gebru tweeted that she was later fired.

"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 from Google managers said, according to Gebru.

"However, 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."

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Now, 2,278 Googlers have signed a letter in support of Gebru.

"Instead of being embraced by Google as an exceptionally talented and prolific contributor, Dr. Gebru has faced defensiveness, racism, gaslighting, research censorship, and now a retaliatory firing," the letter says.

Axios reports that Pichai said in his Wednesday email that Google needs to "assess the circumstances that led up to Dr. Gebru’s departure, examining where we could have improved and led a more respectful process," and "accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent Black, female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily."

For now, Gebru is far from happy with Google's handling of the situation.

"Take responsibility for your toxic leaders, HR, Legal and other entities who harass and discriminate against people like me and protect toxicity," she tweeted Wednesday in response to the email.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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