Google replaces critical Black women with a new, supportive one

Who needs AI ethics when you run the internet?

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA - OCTOBER 28: Google headquarters is seen in Mountain View, California, United Sta...
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Google is digging itself into a deeper hole. Days after Bloomberg reported on a reorganization effort that put Marian Croak, an engineering executive, at the helm of its newly consolidated Responsible AI Research and Engineering Center of Expertise team, Google fired Margaret Mitchell. Mitchell was the co-lead of Google's Ethical AI team along with the famously axed Timnit Gebru, and was locked out of company communications for more than a month prior to her firing.

Now, the company is hiding behind Croak, a Black woman, who’s already demonstrated her willingness to be a smokescreen for management.

A tweet from former Google AI Ethics co-lead Margaret Mitchell.Twitter / @mmitchell_ai

Out with the disagreeable Black women — Gebru’s tense exit from Google late last year quickly turned into a they-said, she-said situation. After a paper she co-authored that critiqued the company’s AI was blocked from publication, she laid out conditions under which she could continue her work there. Instead of accommodating these requests, Google accepted them as her resignation — which she learned of via email.

Mitchell tried to find evidence to support Gebru before Google took away her ability to do so. She’s also critiqued Google’s actions following the media backlash, suggesting the company was taking a tokenist approach to erase its race issues. And now Google is tokenizing a Black executive in order to clean up its mess.

"After conducting a review of this manager’s conduct, we confirmed that there were multiple violations of our code of conduct, as well as of our security policies, which included the exfiltration of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees," reads a statement from Google to Axios regarding Mitchell's termination.

Google doesn’t want to change — Prior to the AI Ethics team’s shakeup, Google terminated another Black woman critical of the company and shuttered a diversity training program. You don’t even have to be Black; Google is generally combative against equitable change, recently ponying up a settlement in a hiring discrimination lawsuit. The company was caught surveilling and firing employees who organized protests, and it has tried to silence employees discussing the historic unionization process.

It can throw money around and make vague commitments, but until Google starts putting people ahead of profits, we can expect more scandals on the horizon.