ACM ethics conference axes its sponsorship relationship with Google

The decision follows Google's firing of multiple employees from its own AI ethics team

VentureBeat reported earlier this week that the ACM Conference for Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency has ended its sponsorship relationship with Google. The termination of the relationship follows in the wake of an ongoing war by Google against its own AI ethics department, in which Google first fired AI scientist and department co-lead Dr. Timnit Gebru, and then froze out and eventually fired the other co-lead and Staff Research Scientist, Dr. Margaret Mitchell. The Alphabet Workers Union released a statement on January 20 on the retaliation against Dr. Mitchell noting that "This suspension comes on the heels of Google’s firing of former co-lead Timnit Gebru; together these are an attack on the people who are trying to make Google’s technology more ethical."

Some extracts from the VentureBeat article appear below.
- Bruce

AI ethics research conference suspends Google sponsorship

The ACM Conference for Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAccT) has decided to suspend its sponsorship relationship with Google, conference sponsorship co-chair and Boise State University assistant professor Michael Ekstrand confirmed today. The organizers of the AI ethics research conference came to this decision a little over a week after Google fired Ethical AI lead Margaret Mitchell and three months after the firing of Ethical AI co-lead Timnit Gebru...

After Gebru was fired, Googlers protested what they called an act of “unprecedented research censorship.” Last week, Reuters reported on a separate instance of alleged interference in AI research at the company, with a research paper coauthor citing “deeply insidious” edits by the Google legal team...

Fallout from the firing of Gebru, a prominent algorithmic oppression researcher and one of the only Black women to work as an AI researcher at Google, led to public opposition from thousands of Googlers and accusations of racism and retaliation. The incident also sparked questions from members of Congress with a documented interest in regulating algorithms. And it led researchers to question the ethics of receiving ethics research funding from Google... Shortly after being fired, Gebru spoke about the idea of unionization as a means of protection for AI researchers, and Mitchell was a member of the Alphabet Workers Union formed in January 2021.  [...]


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