On April 4, 2019, Google announced it was disbanding its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), following a petition launched the previous month by Google employees to have a 69-year-old black woman, who grew up fighting segregation, removed from the panel.
Kay Coles James is a public policy expert and current President of The Heritage Foundation, with extensive experience working at the local, state and federal levels of government. Earlier this year, Google asked her to join its advisory council, which would be dedicated to helping guide responsible development of artificial intelligence.
The company chose individuals from across the political spectrum and of a diversity of backgrounds in order to maximize public credibility and confidence in the advisory panel’s recommendations.
Following Google’s announcement of the members of its advisory council in March 2019, some Google employees launched a petition to have Ms. James removed from the panel. In their petition, these employees accused Ms. James of being “anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-immigrant”. As evidence of “her record”, the petition linked to tweets from Ms. James, where she expressed concern over redefining women to include men, and apprehension over large numbers of sex traffickers (along with “dangerous criminals and drug smugglers”) crossing the Mexican/US border.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Ms James indicated her willingness to engage with fellow advisory-council members about any perceived contradictions in her policy views, and thereby develop better public policy.
Ms. James noted that the name-calling and what she described as false accusations to which she was subjected from Google employees reminded her of the intolerance she experienced in 1961, when as a 12-year-old student, she – along with 25 other black students – helped integrate an all-white junior high school.
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Google decided this year to create an advisory council that would help guide the company in the responsible development of artificial intelligence.
It should worry everyone that respectful commentary on gender policy like the Heritage Foundation has featured can get people removed from polite society now, or even fired.
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Editor’s note and update as of April 4, 2019: It’s become clear that in the current environment, ATEAC can’t function as we wanted.
Google must remove Kay Coles James from its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC).