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Google investigates another AI ethicist

WASHINGTON DC (Axios): Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company’s ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

What’s happening: According to a source, Mitchell used automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Gebru before her account was locked.

The AI ethics team has been under great stress since Gebru’s exit, while thousands of people both within and outside of Google have criticized the company’s actions.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a December memo that the company was looking further into its treatment of Gebru. Google has yet to detail any findings from that inquiry.

Workers cited that treatment as among the reasons for forming a minority union.

What they’re saying: In a statement, Google confirmed that Mitchell’s email account was automatically locked due to unusual activity and that the company is investigating why Mitchell downloaded a large number of files and shared them with people outside the company.

Mitchell did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Between the lines: Earlier Tuesday, Mitchell posted a tweet suggesting Google CEO Sundar Pichai “consistently alienat[es] Black women” and that a meeting he has planned with historically Black college and university leaders is just a ploy to “try to find more Black people to like you (the tokenism approach).”

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