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Google closes its AI ethics council after facing pressure from employees to remove conservative member

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Google has closed its artificial intelligence (AI) ethics council after employees pressured the company to remove certain members from the council.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was established by Google less than two weeks ago and was responsible for helping advance the responsible development of AI technologies such as facial recognition and machine learning.

Shortly after the council was established, a group of employees calling themselves “Googlers Against Transphobia” published an online petition asking to have the Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James removed from the council due to her supposed “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-immigrant” beliefs. James was one of the only conservative voices on the arguably progressive leaning council.

According to Breitbart News, other Google employees also vocally opposed the appointment of Trumbull Unmanned CEO Dyan Gibbens because of her work with drones.

Instead of standing up to these complaints from employees and welcoming diverse opinions, Google once again appears to have buckled to internal pressure and has closed its AI ethics council. The company released a short statement announcing the closure:

It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted. So we’re ending the council and going 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.

Google has a history of letting employee protests govern its decision making. It previously bowed to employee demands around its use of the word “family” when employees became angry that the term was being used to discuss a product aimed at children. Google’s Vice President Pavni Diwanji responded to the outrage by asking employees to teach the company “how to talk about it [family] in an inclusive way.”

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