Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) is under the spotlight for allegedly pushing out a researcher that had warned of AI bias and now reports indicate the search engine giant is asking other researchers to strike a positive tone on “sensitive topics.”
AI researcher leaves Google because of research scrutiny
According to a Reuters report, researchers working on such topics will have their work undergoing more reviews. Reuters points out that the company implemented new controls in 2019 that includes additional inspection on paters touching on some topics which seemingly is an interference from the executive on the later research stages.
This seems to have been the case with AI researcher Dr. Timnit Gebru. Gebru resigned under confusing circumstances due to the differences between the management and her regarding the work her team was conducting. Last week Google CEO, Sundar Pichai said that they will investigate the circumstances that led to the departure of Dr. Gebru to examine where they could have improved to lead to a respectful process.
Google asks researchers to be careful on sensitive topics
Reuters indicates that among the “sensitive topics” as per an internal web page include the oil industry, home security, location data, insurance, religion, autonomous vehicles, Iran, Israel, China COVID-19, telecoms as well as systems recommending web content. Although these topics seem to be sensitive, asking researchers to be careful when addressing them appears to be superfluous considering the available ethics boards, other controls, and peer reviews on research. A researcher told Reuters that the kind of top-down interference from the company on research could soon lead to a serious censorship problem.
This includes the fundamentals of critical research conducted under the company’s auspices for which it may publish or not publish because of its interest for quite some time large private research organization has existed as organized scientific activities. But big tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft among others are exerting enormous influence in areas such as AI. They could be having good reason as they seek to avoid criticism of leading technologies and stay on top stressing their significance.