Google announced Thursday night that the company will be dissolving an artificial intelligence ethics panel following internal backlash from employees who criticized one of the board’s conservative members.
The company’s decision came after employees complained about Heritage Foundation President Kay Coles James’ position on the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC). More than 1,000 “Googlers” signed a petition Monday claimingthat James’s supposedly anti-immigrant positions run contrary to Google’s ethics. The board survived for slightly more than a week.
“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,” a Google representative said in a press statement to Vox, which first reported the company’s decision to disband the panel. Things started falling apart for the panel after board member Alessandro Acquisti resigned March 30.
The petition expressed concern about Coles James’ socially conservative politics and her support for President Donald Trump’s border wall. “This is a weaponization of the language of diversity,” the memo says of the company’s March 26 decision, which was made to diversify the board. James is a black woman who served in the George W. Bush administration.
“By appointing James to the ATEAC, Google elevates and endorses her views, implying that hers is a valid perspective worthy of inclusion in its decision-making. This is unacceptable,” it continues.
Employee push back comes after a Daily Caller News Foundation report in January that showed Google employees became furious at an executive after the person used the term “family” while discussing a product aimed at children. The backlash grew large enough that a Google vice president addressed the controversy and solicited feedback on how the company could become more inclusive.
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