Google said it is scrapping its new ethics council on artificial intelligence just nine days after announcing its launch, after thousands of its employees protested the appointment of a rightwing thinktank leader. The eight-member Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was dedicated to “the responsible development of AI”, Google had said in a blog post on March 26. But on April 4, Google updated the post with the following note:
“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.”
The Guardian reported that the rapid demise of the ATEAC came after more than 2,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding the removal of Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation. The petition was started on April 1, Bloomberg reported, and already had more than 500 signatures by late morning that day.
On March 30, just four days after Google announced the AI council, one of its members Alessandro Acquisti tweeted that he had declined Google’s invitation to join it as he didn’t believe it was the right forum for him to engage in this “important work”.
I'd like to share that I've declined the invitation to the ATEAC council. While I'm devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights & inclusion in AI, I don't believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work. I thank (1/2)
— alessandro acquisti (@ssnstudy) March 30, 2019
The council, which comprised technology experts, digital ethicists, and people with public policy backgrounds, was to be an extension of Google’s AI Principles which it announced last June. You can read a summary of the principles here.