Wired Magazine: "Black and Queer AI Groups Say they'll Spurn Google Funding"

The fallout from Google's firing of Dr. Timnit Gebru continues

Wired Magazine recently reported on the continued institutional pushback against Google's firing of multiple members of its so-called "ethical AI" team, now with multiple organizations announcing that they'll sever their sponsorship relationship with Google. In this newsletter, I most recently summarized the news surrounding Dr. Gebru's firing in late December of 2020, and Wired Magazine reported on the story in early December. In February 2021, Google also fired the team's founder and co-head Dr. Margaret Mitchell, and additional employees have resigned in protest.

Below I'll include extracts from the official statement jointly published by Black in AI, Queer in AI, and Widening MLP, followed by extracts from the recent Wired article. The official statement from the organizations includes a mention of April Christina Curley, a former Google diversity recruiter who went public in December 2020 with her story of being fired.

The web sites of the three organizations are:
Black in AI: https://blackinai.github.io
Queer in AI: https://sites.google.com/view/queer-in-ai/
Widening MLP: http://www.winlp.org/

- Bruce

"An Open Letter to Google" by Black in AI, Queer in AI, and Widening MLP

May 10, 2021

We, the organizers of Black in AI, Queer in AI, and Widening NLP, are writing to voice our concerns about sustaining our sponsorship relationship with Google Research. We strongly condemn Google’s actions to dismiss Dr. Timnit Gebru and Dr. Margaret Mitchell, disrupting the lives and work of both researchers and stymying efforts of the Ethical AI team they managed. We also denounce the dismissal of April Christina Curley from Google, which we view as a step backward in recruiting and creating inclusive workplaces for Black engineers in an industry where BIPOC are marginalized and undermined. Moreso, we stand with the countless others who’ve been in similar situations but haven’t had this level of visibility and support.

While we cannot prevent individuals or organizations from using their influence and resources to diminish and cause damage to members of our respective communities, we can control how we engage with organizations that clearly are not willing to engage in challenging yet necessary conversations. Until Google addresses the harm they’ve caused by undermining both inclusion and critical research, we are unable to reconcile Google’s actions with our organizational missions. We have therefore decided to end our sponsorship relationship with Google.

The potential for AI technologies to cause particular harm to members of our communities weighs heavily on our organizations. We share a mandate to not merely increase the representation of members from our respective communities in the field of AI, but to create safe environments for them and to protect them from mistreatment. Google’s actions in the last few months have inflicted tremendous harms that have reverberated throughout our entire community. They not only have caused damage but set a dangerous precedent for what type of research, advocacy, and retaliation is permissible in our community... 


Black and Queer AI Groups Say They'll Spurn Google Funding
The move is the latest fallout following the departures of the heads of the company's ethical AI research team and a recruiter.

Three groups focused on increasing diversity in artificial intelligence say they will no longer take funding from Google. In a joint statement released Monday, Black in AI, Queer in AI, and Widening NLP said they acted to protest Google’s treatment of its former ethical AI team leaders Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, as well as former recruiter April Christina Curley, a Black queer woman...

Monday’s announcement marks the latest fallout in response to Google’s treatment of Black people and women and accusations of interference in research papers about AI slated for publication at academic conferences...

Cochair Xanda Schofield said Widening NLP, founded in 2017 with a goal of bringing more women into the field, felt a need to sign the joint statement because Google’s actions were inconsistent with the group’s mission of supporting underrepresented researchers...

“What does it mean to have ethical funding? What kinds of organizations should fund a conference? Which ones shouldn’t given that a lot of corporations take dubious ethical steps?" asks Soldaini, of Queer in AI.  "It’s a process. We hope that our statements can not only show that we are committed to call out injustice and take action, but it could also be a launching point for other groups to start doing the same reflection...

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