back to article Google seeks to placate AI researchers complaining of Big Brother-like working conditions

Lawyers at Google have been criticised by the company’s AI researchers for watering down negative language in their academic papers. A leaked email memo to Reuters revealed that words like “concerns” were changed to “considerations”, “dangers” became “risks”. Other words like “breach” or “sensitive” were frowned upon too. The …

  1. Blackjack Silver badge

    Cardboard robot, please avoid water

    It says something about lockdown that upon reading "cardboard robot" my first thought was "That would be a good idea for a videogame".

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Cardboard robot, please avoid water

      Upon reading 'Cardboard Robot' the image that my brain grabbed was of an animated depiction of a forlorn robot made of cardboard boxes being told a definition positive thinking by a blue-eyed anime-style girl in a classroom.

      The reason for this specificity is that I watched just such a scene in part 6 of Adam Curtis's new series on iPlayer, I Can't Get You Put of My Head.

  2. Chris G

    When most researchers write a paper, the language and words they use are usually well considered and intended to convey as accurately as possible, their conclusions up to the point of writing.

    When someone else comes along and rewrites those papers in a way that devalues any of the researcher's statements, the paper is no longer fully valid because it doesn't represent the conckusions arrived at.

    Lawyers may deal with words but few of them have anything better than a glancing knowledge of most of the things they may address from time to time other than the law.

    Lawyers should stick to screwing people in court not second guessing the intent of researchers.

    1. gobaskof

      As an academic who writes papers I couldn't agree more. I spent ages today agonising with a co-worker over how we were reorganising a sentence because my original sentence was crap to read, but his sentence was subtly less correct. We eventually converged on a better sentence. The point is thought, this was a discussion over improving clarity of the writing while maintaining accuracy. This was not about PR.

      The problem is not that Google's legal and PR teams police their academic output. It is that a company with a clear bias and motivation for a particular result is allowed to claim it is doing academic research. If Google really cared about the research it could fund these same researchers to work in academia and give them full freedom over their publications. The thing is Google does research because it is good PR to do research, and so it can attempt to control the academic dialogue. Journals that allow them to publish, and academics that work for them have sold out the very concept of academia. To cry foul when the obvious happens, displays either obvious naivety or total hypocricy.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "watering down negative language in their academic papers"

    Academic papers? The authors may think so, but to Goooooooooooooooooooooogle they're promo so the practice is justified (unless you get caught doing it).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "watering down negative language in their academic papers"

      Right. It seems like the "academics" just realized what Google has been doing for 20 years with every "service" they offer. Google's search is the the foremost example of watering down, rewriting, altering, etc. for corporate profit. I'll end with this: If you complain about censorship in journalism, well you have to first find the articles to complain about, so how are you finding those articles?

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: "watering down negative language in their academic papers"

        And through whose browser and phone OS*?

        * the majority of them at least

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Better Late to the Party than Never, eh? What on Earth keeps them away?

    Fear of the Unknown Terrors Known Rapidly Approaching?

    El Reg has been hosting and trialing large language-generation models since before they were even a twinkle in Google's AI eye or Minded by Alphabet to go Deep.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    "The Chocolate Factory’s legal team"

    That is not a legal team. That is Goebble's PR team hard at work.

    There is no legal reason to replace the 'concerns' with the word 'considerations'. Legally, that has no justification.

    Propaganda-wise, though, it is a very good decision.

    Except that, irony, the propaganda department is working against some of the best engineers in the field, who have chosen their words with utmost care.

    Team Goebbel doesn't stand a chance.

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Yeah that's silly

    Yeah that's silly.. I thought it was going to be Googlers not being happy with some security measures to avoid corporate espionage. Not exepcting Google legal to be interfering with research papers -- very surprised!

  7. LionelB Silver badge

    Just checking: am I the only one who misread that as "Deepflake Tom Cruise"?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I'm surprised by the implication that the "real" Tom Cruise isn't computer-generated.

      1. LionelB Silver badge

        Well yes, come to think of it he does glitch a bit.

  8. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


    Google seeks to placate AI researchers complaining of Big Brother-like working conditions:

    Chocolate Factory willing to fire "whoever it takes" to avoid ethical behavior

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Biggest problem with Google

    Is that their products aren't ethically sourced.

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