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8.14.20
Backpedaling

Google Started an Ethics Board and Then Killed It After Protests

April 5th 19__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Future Society
Tag Hartman-Simkins

Cancelled

Last week, Google announced a new advisory board to help the company navigate the murky ethical waters churned by emerging technologies like AI and robotics.

Now, after public outcry and internal protest over some of the more controversial selections for committee members, Google told Vox on Thursday that it’s cancelling the whole thing.

RIP

It’s hard to argue that the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, which was supposed to bring experts to the table and help Google make responsible choices, was a bad idea in concept.

But then Google decided to include people like Kay Coles James, the president of the Right-Wing Heritage Foundation, who has become infamous for her homophobic and climate change-denying rhetoric. Google employees and outside observers immediately began to protest, and other panelists started to resign.

Inevitable Failure

The advisory council, which was unpaid and only met four times per year, never seemed like a strong premise. But now Google seems to blame the protests themselves for the program’s failure.

“It’s become clear that in the current environment, [the ethics board] can’t function as we wanted,” a company spokesperson told Vox. “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.”

READ MORE: Exclusive: Google cancels AI ethics board in response to outcry [Vox]

More on Google: Three Signs Google Is Turning to the Dark Side