They both said Google’s Alphabet Inc fired researcher Margaret Mitchell on Friday, after a weeks-long investigation found that she had moved electronic files outside the company amid a battle over freedom of search and diversity.
Google said in a statement that Mitchell violated the company’s code of conduct and security policies. Mitchell, who announced her expulsion on Twitter, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The ethics of Google’s AI research unit have been under scrutiny since black scientist Tymnet Gibro was fired in December, prompting thousands of Google employees to protest.
She and Mitchell, who is white, called for more diversity among Google’s research staff and expressed concern that the company had begun to censor research critical of its products.
Gibro said Google kicked her out after questioning an order not to publish a paper alleging that imitating language could harm marginalized populations.
Mitchell and Gebrow co-led the AI team for nearly two years.
A person familiar with the matter said that Google’s Artificial Intelligence Research Director Zubin Kahramani and a legal representative for the company informed Mitchell’s team of the shooting on Friday at a meeting that was summoned shortly.
The person said a simple explanation of the dismissal was provided. Google declined to comment.
Alex Hanna, a Google employee, said on Twitter that the company was waging a “smear campaign” against Mitchell and Gebro, with whom it had worked closely.
Google did not immediately comment on the allegations.
“We have confirmed that there are multiple violations of our code of conduct, as well as of our security policies, which included the theft of confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees,” said her statement by Mitchell.
Google has recruited top scientists with promises of freedom of search, but limits are being tested as researchers increasingly write about the negative impacts of technology and offer unconcerned perspectives on employer’s products.