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Google cancels AI ethics council plans following controversy

Google has given up on the AI ethics advisory group it announced just over a week ago, after public controversy over the makeup of the 8-person board.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) was described in a blog post as an internal governance structure to help the company implement its AI Principles, which were announced in June of last year, and their most challenging implications for technologies like facial recognition. The inclusion of Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James sparked controversy due to what TechCrunch refers to as “conduct that could be called hateful or disinformation” by the group and James individually. This led to a petition signed by more than 2,300 Google employees and calls from others to remove James from the council.

The post announcing the council has now been updated to announce the reversal.

“It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted,” an editor notes at the top of Google SVP of Global Affairs Kent Walker’s post. “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.”

Carnegie Mellon University Professor of Information Technology and Public Policy Alessandro Acquisti was originally announced as part of the council, but declined the invitation, writing on Twitter that it was not the right forum.

Efforts within the AI and computer science industry to understand the technology’s ethical implications include the recent launch of two interdisciplinary conferences.

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