Google, the ubiquitous search engine we all use for reliable and impartial research, could soon start to oust information on ‘sensitive topics.’ Is this a censorship storm waiting to happen?
Alphabet’s flagship platform Google is under serious fire this week regarding censorship measures, and concern is growing that bias could soon discredit the platform as a reliable search engine.
Sparked by the forced resignation of Dr Timnit Gebru, an AI researcher/scientist at Google, Reuters has since dragged up Google’s legislation imposed last year which stated that papers on sensitive topics would face increasingly stringent vetting before going live.
Dr Timnit Gebru, who previously led a 12-person research team, was supposedly shown the door at Google this month for questioning an order not to publish findings which scrutinised the ethical integrity of AI and its potential to impact disadvantaged communities.
This chat is how I found out I was resignated. From my direct report in shock who was trying to reach me. I then informed my manager Samy after she informed me. She had just joined our team in May. @JeffDean there are no words left to describe this & your subsequent gasligthing pic.twitter.com/xClkzrmoWQ
— Timnit Gebru (@timnitGebru) December 28, 2020
According to Google’s small-print, the more rigorous vetting process of research papers was originally designed to stop the disclosing of trade secrets, but recent developments point to a much broader practice than that, and one that may soon lead to big censorship disputes.
The explosion of research into the development and rapid integration of AI tech has led to upwards of 200 published papers in the last year alone, and as big proprietors of the technology – using AI to personalise YouTube users’ content feeds, for instance – Google is clearly looking to protect its reputation. In-fact, former employees at Google have even revealed that company officials called for research authors to ‘strike a positive tone’ when talking in-house developments or tech integration. Judging by the sheer outpouring of disgruntled ex-employees, it seems such interference is common too.