Google shuts down AI ethics council after controversy over members

Google employees opposed the company's formation of an A.I. ethics board

Google employees opposed the company's formation of an A.I. ethics board

That suggests the ethics council will be revived in some form, although it's unclear if Google will try the same approach next time.

The ethics council was disbanded following the signing of an open letter by nearly a thousand members of Google's staff, multiple academic researchers and influential tech industry figures which protested the inclusion of certain members of Google's A.I. ethics council.

Google originally brought the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) on board in order to keep the company from crossing any serious ethical lines in its pursuit of artificial intelligence - but Google employees have claimed that the company had acted unethically in choosing who would sit on the council.

Google announced last week it had started a council dedicated to advising on ethical questions related to facial recognition and machine learning and consulting "diverse perspectives" on its work.

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More than 2,000 workers have signed a petition titled "Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate", which insisted that the Silicon Valley company remove Coles from the board.

"It's become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC (the advisory council) can't function as we wanted", Google told PCMag in an email. One of those members, Alessandro Acquisti, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, had already announced that he would not be taking up the role.

Vox reports that the Silicon Valley tech giant has scrapped the group, which had been meant to scrutinise the company's work on artificial intelligence to ensure the tech is ethically developed. In response, Google has said that it is "going back the drawing board" and is ending the council. It had eight members, including technologists, philosophers, and economists, and was meant to hold four meetings a year, starting this month. Then Google said it would publish reports based on those meetings.

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