Google executive Jen Gennai responds to undercover report showing AI bias


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A top Google executive has decided to address some serious accusations leveled against her, and the company she works for, after her controversial statements surfaced in an investigative report.

And the reaction is a curious mix of denial, accusations, and admission of using “imprecise language.”

Jen Gennai, Head of Responsible Innovation, Global Affairs at Google, came under the spotlight after the statements that she made, recorded in a Project Veritas undercover video.

She said that, as “we all got screwed over in 2016 (presidential election won by Trump)” – meaning Google, “the people, the news media” – the company has “rapidly” been trying to understand “what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again.”

“We're also training our algorithms, like, if 2016 happened again, would we have, would the outcome be different?,” Gennai says.

This was taken by many to mean that the tech giant intents to use the the power of its tech to influence the outcome of future US elections.

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But Gennai took to Medium – to deny what the investigative report had exposed what appeared to be her purposeful an biased political agenda.

However, that's not exactly how Project Veritas head James O'Keefe sees it, though, as he tweeted the following:

The Google exec said that she had been invited to a dinner in late May, that produced the undercover video, and that she was unaware she was speaking with Project Veritas reporters.

In her Medium post, Gennai also denied her involvement in the products such as search, which the same report claimed was being skewed thanks to the way it trains its Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered machine learning. According to an unnamed insider, the goal is to introduce “machine learning (ML) fairness.”

And what about Gennai saying that Senator Elizabeth Warren shouldn't push for Google to be broken up because smaller companies wouldn't be able to do the job as well as Google – or her remark about the behemoth's representatives ignoring Congress invitations because they had no taste for hearing the same old accusations, and had no intention of changing?

“I was having a casual chat with someone at a restaurant and used some imprecise language. Project Veritas got me. Well done,” she wrote.

Gennai also asserted that she had received “an enormous collection” of threats, some accusing her of treason and threatening “execution” – but failed, at least in her Media write-up, to provide any evidence.

And lastly, should anyone have any doubts left, somewhere in the text Gennai quotes Google's CEO who in the past put our minds at ease: “We do not bias our products to favor any political agenda.”

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Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]