Google Scraps New AI Ethics Council Amid Criticism

Chris Jackson—Getty Images

Chris Jackson—Getty Images

On Thursday, the tech giant announced it had dissolved the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, which was meant to bring outside experts together to help inform Google's views on developing artificial intelligence.

Google's statement: A spokesperson for Google told Vox: "It's become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can't function as we wanted".

Google has now abandoned plans for the committee, saying it was "going back to the drawing board". The goal was to help guide the company in its work on AI projects and address thorny issues like facial recognition and bias in machine learning.

But the move sparked criticism as Google employees hit out at the appointment of Kay Coles James, president of USA think tank The Heritage Foundation.

The council lasted barely more than a week, after thousands of Google employees signed a petition calling for the removal of one member. "This is a weaponization of the language of diversity", the memo says of the company's March 26 decision, which was made to diversify the board.

Google has chose to end its short-lived AI council after controversy surrounding the appointment of a member accused of being anti-LGBT. The main issue stemmed from Google's inclusion of Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James as one of the members.

Earlier on Saturday, a board member and Carnegie Mellon Professor Alessandro Acquisti stepped down from ATEAC tweeting that the forum was not right for him. Internal Google messages published by Breitbart News show a high level of hysterics amongst employees over the A.I. board. Needless to say, the main objective of ATEAC was lost amid controversy and Google had to make a choice. Increased scrutiny and pressure from regular workers and contractors alike pushed Google to require contract firms to offer benefits to employees who temporarily work for the company.

Meanwhile, the US tech giant continues to work on ways to better serve its thousands of employees amid backlash over the disbanded AI ethics board and previous complaints about its lack of benefits for temporary workers. Last year's Google walkout, which saw more than 20,000 employees protest the way the company protects male employees who sexual harass female colleagues, has led to an upswell in employee activism.

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