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Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

What's happening: According to a source, Mitchell had been using automated scripts to look through her messages to find examples showing discriminatory treatment of Gebru before her account was locked.

  • The AI ethics team has been under great stress since Gebru's exit, while thousands of people both within and outside of Google have criticized the company's actions.
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in a December memo that the company was looking further into its treatment of Gebru. Google has yet to detail any findings from that inquiry.
  • Workers cited that treatment as among the reasons for forming a minority union for employees at Google parent firm Alphabet.

What they're saying: In a statement, Google confirmed that Mitchell's email account has been locked and that the company is investigating why Mitchell downloaded a large number of files and shared them with people outside the company.

"Our security systems automatically lock an employee’s corporate account when they detect that the account is at risk of compromise due to credential problems or when an automated rule involving the handling of sensitive data has been triggered. In this instance, yesterday our systems detected that an account had exfiltrated thousands of files and shared them with multiple external accounts. We explained this to the employee earlier today."
— Google, in a statement to Axios.
  • Mitchell did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Between the lines: Earlier Tuesday, Mitchell had posted a tweet critical of Google CEO Sundar Pichai's planned meeting with historically Black college and university leaders, writing:

"Say you have a problem with consistently alienating Black women and have caused serious damage in their lives. You could: A) try to undo that damage B) try to find more Black people to like you (the tokenism approach). Good luck....."
— Margaret Mitchell, on Twitter.
  • Gebru tweeted earlier Tuesday that Mitchell's corporate e-mail appeared not to be working.

What's next: "We are actively investigating this matter as part of standard procedures to gather additional details," a Google representative said.

Go deeper: Tech research becomes hazardous ground

Go deeper

Jan 25, 2021 - Economy & Business

Audio messaging platform Yac raises $7.5M Series A

Yac

Yac, an online voice messaging platform, has raised $7.5 million in venture funding led by GGV Capital and the Slack Fund, which funded the app last year.

Why it matters: Yac helps companies integrate audio messaging into their workflow. It launched at the beginning of the pandemic and has benefitted enormously from companies needed improved communication during remote work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

3 hours ago - Sports

Gymnast Suni Lee to make historic debut at Olympics

USA's Sunisa Lee performs at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, on Oct. 13, 2019. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

When Sunisa "Suni" Lee steps up to the mat at the Tokyo Olympics, she'll be thinking of her father's pep talks even as he watches from thousands of miles away.

The big picture: The 18-year-old made history this year when she became the first Hmong American to be named to a U.S. Olympic team. Even more special was her dad's presence in the crowd at the Olympic trials — it was only the second time he watched her compete in person since a 2019 accident paralyzed him from the chest down.