SAN FRANCISCO (US) – After AI researcher Timnit Gebru was fired by Alphabet Inc’s Google, an engineering director and a software developer have quit from the the internet giant. Gebru’s dismissal is a sign of the ongoing conflicts at the search giant over diversity and ethics.
David Baker, a director focused on user safety, quit Google last month after 16 years “because Gebru’s exit extinguished my desire to continue as a Googler,” he said in a letter. Baker added, “We cannot say we believe in diversity, and then ignore the conspicuous absence of many voices from within our walls.”
Software engineer Vinesh Kannan said Wednesday on Twitter that he had left the company on Tuesday because Google mistreated Gebru and April Christina Curley, a recruiter who has said she was wrongly fired last year. Both Gebru and Curley identify as Black.
“They were wronged,” Kannan said.
The resignations come as workers have demanded commitments to academic freedom and management change in Google’s research organization. More than 800 people joined a union announced last month to advance workplace protections, and more than 2,600 of its 135,000 employees signed a December letter supporting Gebru.
Gebru, who co-led a team on AI ethics, says she pushed back on orders to pull research that speech technology like Google’s could disadvantage marginalized groups.