Apr 2, 2019

Googlers protest AI advisory board member over anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant comments

Ina Fried, author of Login

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

More than 1,000 Google employees are calling for Google to rescind its decision to include Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James on a key AI advisory panel, pointing to her history of anti-gay, anti-transgender and anti-immigrant comments.

What they're saying: "Her record speaks for itself  —  over, and over, and over again," the Google employees said in a petition. "Google cannot claim to support trans people and its trans employees  —  a population that faces real and material threats  —  and simultaneously appoint someone committed to trans erasure to a key AI advisory position."

The big picture: Google last week named James to its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council. The company declined to comment. However, a source familiar with the situation said Google isn't budging and that the company likes the perspective she brings, including her NASA experience and free market thinking.

  • Plus, the company wants to be challenged on various issues by those that aren't part of its usual circles.

Between the lines: There is also a feeling in Google leadership that the company can't be seen as having to put all its management decisions up for a popular vote.

Flashback: Google refused for months to pull down an Android app that LGBT groups said engages in a form of conversion therapy.

  • However, it reversed course less than 24 hours after the Human Rights Campaign suspended Google's rating in its influential Corporate Equality Index.

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