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After an employee backlash, Google has cancelled its AI ethics board a little more than a week after

Business Insider

Google has shut down its AI ethics board little more than a week after announcing it.

Vox reports that the Silicon Valley tech giant has scrapped the group, which had been intended to scrutinise the company's work on artificial intelligence to ensure the tech is ethically developed. A Google spokesperson confirmed the closure to Business Insider.

It was mired in controversy from the start, with thousands of Google employees up in arms about the inclusion of Kay Coles James, president of right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation.

The group said that her addition "significantly undermines Google's position on AI ethics and fairness" and that because "the potential harms of AI are not evenly distributed," people "who are most marginalized are most at risk." Nearly 2,400 Google employees subsequently signed the petition.

Alessandro Acquisti, a leading behavioral economist and privacy researcher, subsequently stepped down from Google's ethics board, saying he did not think it was "the right forum for me to engage in this important work." Numerous academics, among others, also signed the petition calling for James' removal.

In a statement, a Google spokesperson said: "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. We'll continue to be responsible in our work on the important issues that AI raises, and will find different ways of getting outside opinions on these topics. "

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Staff

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