Oh brilliant, Google: Hire a hater to sort out your ethics?

Lifestyle

Oh brilliant, Google: Hire a hater to sort out your ethics?

Google dissolves its ethics forum after a row about hiring an anti-trans, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant member

Margi Murphy


Google’s long-awaited artificial intelligence ethics committee lasted just eight days after a row broke out over the inclusion of an “anti-trans, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant” conservative.
The search giant was lambasted by employees for enlisting Kay Coles James, president of the Heritage Foundation, who is a vocal opponent of the LGBT community. 
More than 2,000 workers signed a petition titled “Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate”, which insisted that the Silicon Valley company remove Coles from the board.
Computing and economics expert Alessandro Acquisti stood down from the eight-strong council claiming he did not believe “this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work”.
He had been appointed with seven other experts in public policy, computer science and philosophy to help steer Google’s decisions on government contracts and how best to apply its technology following public concern about the ethics of its use. 
Employees and pundits were quick to point out the irony of installing someone with strong views against immigration to provide guidance on bias in algorithms, which have sometimes been found to discriminate against certain ethnic groups. 
A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company was going “back to the drawing board”, blaming the “current environment” for the panel’s failure.
The company has seen a rise in employee activism, largely protesting employee rights and alleged sexism. Earlier this year it pledged to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment victims, meaning they will be entitled to a day in court.
The action was triggered by worldwide protests when a New York Times article reported that an executive was paid off after it was found he sexually assaulted a co-worker. Google then made a U-turn on temporary staff rights following protests over contractors’ access to healthcare, minimum wages and paternity leave.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

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