Google research manager Samy Bengio is resigning in the wake of the firings of two colleagues who had questioned paper review and diversity practices at the Alphabet Inc unit, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing an internal memo.
Though at least two Google engineers had earlier resigned in protest of Gebru’s firing, Bengio is the highest-profile departure yet.
A distinguished scientist at Google, Bengio spent about 14 years at the company and was among its first employees involved in a decade-old project known as Google Brain that advanced algorithms crucial to the functioning of various modern artificial intelligence systems.
Google fired staff scientist Margaret Mitchell in February after alleging she transferred electronic files out of the company, and also fired fellow researcher Timnit Gebru in December after she threatened to quit rather than retract a paper.
Mitchell has said she tried “to raise concerns about race and gender inequity, and speak up about Google’s problematic firing of Dr. Gebru.” Gebru has said the company wanted to suppress her criticism of its products and its efforts to increase workforce diversity.
Bengio had defended the pair, who co-led a team of about a dozen researching ethical issues related to AI software. In December, Bengio said on Facebook that he was stunned that Gebru, whom he was managing, was removed from the company without his being consulted prior.