Google reorganizes AI teams after months of turmoil

The search giant is creating a new team under Marian Croak, a vice president of engineering.

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Google on Thursday said it's restructuring its teams that focus on the development of artificial intelligence, a shake-up that follows months of turmoil after the departure of a prominent AI researcher at the company. 

The new team, called the Responsible AI Research and Engineering Center of Expertise, will be led by Marian Croak, a vice president of engineering at the tech giant. Bloomberg earlier reported the news.

The reorganization comes as Google faces blowback over the exit of Timnit Gebru, who co-led Google's Ethical AI group and is one of the few Black women in the field. In December, Gebru said she was fired over a research paper that calls out risks for bias in AI -- including in systems used by Google's search engine. Gebru also emailed a group of Google employees, criticizing the company's diversity and equity programs. 

Gebru's departure has caused widespread outrage among Google's rank-and-file workforce and around the broader tech industry. Nearly 2,700 Googlers have signed an open letter in support of Gebru, and members of Gebru's former team at Google sent a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding she be reinstated.

"There's quite a lot of conflict right now within the field, and it can be polarizing at times," Croak said in a video and blog post announcing the news. "And what I'd like to do is have people have the conversation in a more diplomatic way, perhaps, than we're having it now, so we can truly advance this field."

The news came as a surprise to some members of Google's AI teams. "This was not communicated with us at all, despite promises that it would be," Alex Hanna, a member of Google's Ethical AI team, wrote on Twitter.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the company's blog post announcement.