Google caves to controversy, pulls plug on AI ethics council

Google disbands artificial intelligence ethics board

Google disbands artificial intelligence ethics board AFP4 Apr 2019

Luciano Floridi recommended Google to remove Kay Coles James from the board, all the while another board member, Alessandro Acquisti, leading behavioral economist and privacy researcher chose to leave the board altogether. The petition signed by thousands of Google employees highlights that Kay Coles James has also been historically vocal about her stance against immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

The creation of the council had come after Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai in June 2018 created new principles for AI use at Google, and pledged not to use AI for technology that causes injury to people.

Just over a week after it was formed, Google has pulled the plug on its AI ethics board amid an outcry over its decision to appoint several controversial figures.

Oh Google. A mere 10 days after forming an advisory council to guide the company's development of AI, Google has shuttered the committee and gone back to the drawing board. "We'll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics", said the unnamed spokesperson to Vox.

The decision, which was first reported by Vox Media, came in the wake of almost 2,400 Google employees signing a post on the website Medium demanding the company remove Kay Coles James - president of conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation - from the council. Shortly after the council was announced with her as part of the panel, a group of Google employees called for her removal.

When Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs, announced the formation of the council last week, he said he wanted the effort to "inform both our own work and the broader technology sector". He said he believes ATEAC is not the "right forum for me to engage in this important work".

Over the last few years, Google employees have been uniting to push for reforms in the company's workforce standards.

Meanwhile, Alessandro Acquist - the first person listed on Google's announcement post welcoming the team - had already quit.

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