Elon Musk fired the team that does what he wants – The “Ethical AI” Team that works on making Twitter’s algorithms more transparent and fair. What’s behind the story?
After the acquisition of Twitter, Elon Musk, the New CEO has been working on a great reform on Twitter. Followed by the dismissal of the highest management executives and dissolution of the board of directors, Musk just announced another great move, to layoff the “Ethical AI” Team.
The “Ethical AI” Team is a team of artificial intelligence researchers that work on making Twitter’s algorithms more transparent and fair. As more and more problems are arose with the use of AI, for example, biases of race, gender, age and political status are surfaced, the team was developed to find out such issues. The team is more progressive than other tech companies in terms of researching and pushing for algorithmic transparency and algorithmic choice. It publishes details of problems with the company’s AI systems, and also allows outside researchers to investigate its algorithms for new issues.
Despite Musk’s intention to make an open Algorithm for Twitter, he fired the team that does the exact same thing that he wants in order to cut cost. Rumman Chowdhury, director of the Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency, and Accountability (META) team at Twitter said that earlier before the layoff, the groups’ work was suspended. “We were told, in no uncertain terms, not to rock the boat,” She added.
Joan Deitchman, Senior Manager of the Twitter’s META unit disclosed that the whole team had been laid off. “The team that was inventing and building ethical AI tooling and methodologies,”, “All that is gone.” She said.
Many researchers saw this as a big loss in the AI field. “This team was amazing… a brilliant team providing transparency and productive critique from inside Twitter.” Kate Starbird, an associate professor at the University of Washington who studies online disinformation, wrote. Ali Alkhatib, Director of the Center for Applied Data Ethics at the University of San Francisco says “The META team was one of the only good case studies of a tech company running an AI ethics group that interacts with the public and academia with substantial credibility.” He added that the team had done an incredible job in contributing to the AI ethics community and they did a worthy work to hold Big Tech to account.
“The algorithms that Twitter and other social media giants use have a huge impact on people’s lives, and need to be studied.” Mark Riedl, a professor studying AI at Georgia Tech said. Losing the “Ethical AI” Team not only affects the business model of Twitter but also deters the study of the Artificial Intelligence field.
“The algorithm needs to be open source.” said Elon Musk in March. To the outside world, it is contradictory of what he does to what he wishes. Whether Musk can build a brand new Twitter with a fair and transparent algorithms without the efforts of the former Ethical AI team will be seen shortly.