India's largest platform for AI & Analytics leaders, professionals & aspirants

Sign in

India's largest platform for AI & Analytics leaders, professionals & aspirants

3AI Digital Library

Give AI a ‘positive’ spin: Google tells its scientists

January 19, 2021

Google has reportedly been telling its scientists to give AI a “positive” spin in research papers.

Documents obtained by Reuters suggest that, in at least three cases, Google’s researchers were requested to refrain from being critical of AI technology.

A “sensitive topics” review was established by Google earlier this year to catch papers which cast a negative light on AI ahead of their publication.

Google asks its scientists to consult with legal, policy, and public relations teams prior to publishing anything on topics which could be deemed sensitive like sentiment analysis and categorisations of people based on race and/or political affiliation.

The new review means that papers from Google’s expert researchers which raise questions about AI developments may never be published. Reuters says four staff researchers believe Google is interfering with studies into potential technology harms.

Google recently faced scrutiny after firing leading AI ethics researcher Timnit Gebru.

Gebru is considered a pioneer in the field and researched the risks and inequalities found in large language models. She claims to have been fired by Google over an unpublished paper and sending an email critical of the company’s practices.

In an internal email countering Gebru’s claims, Head of Google Research Jeff Dean wrote:

“We’ve approved dozens of papers that Timnit and/or the other Googlers have authored and then published, but as you know, papers often require changes during the internal review process (or are even deemed unsuitable for submission). 

Unfortunately, this particular paper was only shared with a day’s notice before its deadline — we require two weeks for this sort of review — and then instead of awaiting reviewer feedback, it was approved for submission and submitted.

A cross-functional team then reviewed the paper as part of our regular process and the authors were informed that it didn’t meet our bar for publication and were given feedback about why.”

While it’s one word against another, it’s not a great look for Google.

“Advances in technology and the growing complexity of our external environment are increasingly leading to situations where seemingly inoffensive projects raise ethical, reputational, regulatory or legal issues,” Reuters reported one of Google’s documents as saying.

On its public-facing website, Google says that its scientists have “substantial” freedom—but that’s increasingly appearing like it’s not the case.

Picture from freepik.com

    3AI Trending Articles

  • India’s answer to Dropbox and Google Drive: NITI Aayog’s DigiBoxx

    Homegrown data storage and management platform DigiBoxx has been launched by NITI Aayog and it will provide affordable services to both regular users as well as businesses. India now has its own cloud storage platform, DigiBoxx. A potential alternative to Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive, the indigenous cloud service is seen as a step that furthers the initiative […]

  • AI in Investing – are we there yet?

    Believes Atanuu Agarrwal from Upside AI, this and much more in a conversation with Sumit Chanda from JARVIS by Monitree, Siddharth Panjwani from K2 Capital, and Atanuu. With the world moving too fast and data piling up by every millisecond, why haven’t we fully utilized the capabilities of technology to carry out Smart Investing for […]

  • Google investigates ethical AI team member over sensitive data handling

    Google’s diversity efforts have been questioned by employees and adds to years of angst, including several resignations and firings in the AI department. Alphabet Inc’s Google is investigating a member of its ethical AI team and has locked the corporate account linked to that person after finding that thousands of files were retrieved from its […]

  • Impact of C19 on upskilling and Edtech

    After nearly one year under lockdown, here is how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the upskilling and edtech platforms across the country. . Overnight in March 2020, COVID19 forced employees and companies to change the way they worked and lived. Regardless of job role, this situation transformed the way every working professional went about their […]