Last week, Google announced a new external advisory board to to ensure the company works towards “responsible” AI development. People quickly honed in on one board addition: Kay Coles James, president of the conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation.
Now, over 1,200 Googlers — along with academic, civil society, and industry supporters — have signed a petition calling for James’ removal, citing her transphobia, homophobia, and anti-immigrant positions as cause.
“In selecting James, Google is making clear that its version of ‘ethics’ values proximity to power over the wellbeing of trans people, other LGBTQ people, and immigrants,” Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate wrote in a Medium post.
Noting that the person who took credit for James’ appointment claimed it was to ensure “diversity of thought,” the group added:
“This is a weaponization of the language of diversity. 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. Appointing James to ATEAC also significantly undermines Google’s position on AI ethics and fairness. The potential harms of AI are not evenly distributed, and follow historical patterns of discrimination and exclusion.”
In selecting James, Google is making clear that its version of “ethics” values proximity to power over the wellbeing of trans people, other LGBTQ people, & immigrants. 2/9
— Googlers for Human Rights (@EthicalGooglers) April 1, 2019
James’ record of transmisogynistic and anti-immigrant remarks are well documented. In March, James tweeted against the Equality Act and referred to trans women as “biological males.” James also tweeted that the Heritage Foundation “will critique gender identity,” adding that powerful nations were changing “the definition of women to include men.”
In response to President Donald Trump’s highly controversial national emergency, Cole tweeted, “We have a crisis at our border: thousands of illegal aliens, dangerous criminals, drug smugglers and sex traffickers crossing the border every day.”
I'd like to share that I've declined the invitation to the ATEAC council. While I'm devoted to research grappling with key ethical issues of fairness, rights & inclusion in AI, I don't believe this is the right forum for me to engage in this important work. I thank (1/2)
— alessandro acquisti (@ssnstudy) March 30, 2019