Hundreds of Google employees demanded the removal of the president of the conservative think-tank the Heritage Foundation from the company’s newly formed artificial intelligence council, citing her anti-LGBT record.
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In an open letter published on Monday, employees at the world’s largest search engine criticized the appointment of Kay Cole James to its advanced technology external advisory council (ATEAC) which is tasked with informing the company’s decisions regarding its use of AI.
Employees linked to tweets that James wrote in February and March in which she fought against protections for LGBT and transgender people. She also advocated for a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border by President Trump.
“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,” the employees wrote in the letter, which was published on Medium. “Such a position directly contravenes Google’s stated values.”
The letter -- which in total has 1,314 signatures, according to Googlers Against Transphobia -- has also been signed by hundreds of prominent academics, activists and industry supporters.
Google did not respond to a request for comment, but in the letter Google employees said the person who appointed James to the board stood by the decision, saying she was on the board to ensure “diversity of thought.”
“This is a weaponization of the language of diversity,” Google employees argued. “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.”
At the end of March, Google created the ATEAC with the purpose of overseeing and implementing its AI principles, like facial recognition and fairness in machine learning.
Google described James as a “public policy expert with extensive experience working at the local, state and federal levels of government” as well as a proponent of “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom and national defense.” She is one of eight members.