Google pulls the plug on AI council

Google on Thursday announced that it opted to disband its newly-formed artificial intelligence (AI) ethics council following aggressive pushback from more than 2,000 Google employee over one of the panel’s members.

A Google spokesperson in a statement said Google is “going back to the drawing board.”

“It’s become clear that in the current environment, [Advanced Technology External Advisory Council] ATEAC can’t function as we wanted,” the spokesperson said. “So we’re ending the council and going back to the drawing board.”

Google announced its new AI ethics board last week.

The board was immediately met with controversy as thousands of Google employees and hundreds of external petitioners took issue with one of the board’s members, who they said had an “anti-trans” and “anti-immigrant” record.

More than 2,380 Google employees signed onto a petition asking the company to remove Kay Coles James, president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, from the panel. They said James’s positions on transgender and immigrant rights should have disqualified her from weighing in on AI ethics.

Reaction:┬áThe group of protesting Google employees, who organized under the title “Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate,” on Thursday evening celebrated the AI panel’s dissolution.

“ATEAC is over, and we did this together,” the Googlers Against Transphobia account tweeted. “So many people (over 2300 Googlers & over 300 supporters from industry, academia and civil society) answered the call to #StandAgainstTransphobia. We thank you for your support & unwillingness to compromise on hate.”

The Google spokesperson on Thursday night said the company will “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.”