Google, censorship, militarism, abuse and ‘ethics washing’

This video from the USA says about itself:

Organizing resistance to Internet censorship

On January 16, 2018, the World Socialist Web Site will video livestream a discussion on Internet censorship, featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges and WSWS International Editorial Board Chairperson David North. WSWS reporter Andre Damon will moderate the discussion.

The webinar will explore the political context of the efforts to censor the Internet and abolish net neutrality, examine the pretexts used to justify the suppression of free speech (i.e., “fake news”), and discuss political strategies to defend democratic rights. Hedges and North will also field questions from on-line listeners.

… Andre Damon has written extensively on Google’s censorship of left wing, anti-war, and progressive web sites.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Again unrest at Google, now due to the composition of the ethical advisory board

In a year, Google has had to deal with dissatisfaction with cooperation with the Pentagon, a censored search engine for the Chinese market and the covering up of sexual abuse. And a fourth issue has been added.

There is internal and external criticism of the composition of a newly appointed advisory council for ethical issues. This council must advise the company on ethical dilemmas in the field of artificial intelligence, which in recent years has become central to the strategy of the tech giant.

The company announced last week that eight experts will advise the company on what Google‘s head of legal affairs call the “most complex challenges”. Facial recognition was mentioned as an example. In particular, the appointment of Kay Coles James, the president of a US American conservative think tank, causes resistance.

An open letter has been published in which Google is called upon to withdraw the appointment of Coles James, who is leading The Heritage Foundation. “This organization is seen as extremely conservative”, says US expert Victor Vlam. “They help to give ideological meaning to the policy of Republican politicians. The organization argues for conservative judges.”

The letter, according to the makers, was signed by more than 1,200 Google employees … and a further 188 people from outside of Google – including those from academia or working at other Silicon Valley companies. Tech site The Verge writes on the basis of sources that internally, both the Google bosses and Coles James get criticism. Employees would describe her as “intolerant”.

“A political signal”

Google is known for its warm relationship with the Democratic party

According to Vlam, her appointment can be seen as a signal by Google to the Trump government that their positions are being taken seriously. Vlam: “The Democrats are increasingly critical of Silicon Valley and so it is important to get contacts with Republicans.”

According to opponents, Coles James is anti-transgender, anti-LGB and anti-immigrant. They find proof of this in a number of tweets. In one of them, she criticizes the so-called Equality Act (a law to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, eg, at work and when getting housing). …

In another twitter message, she announced that her organization would criticize the definition of gender identity as adopted by the United Nations. And in a third tweet, she supports President Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency: “We have a crisis near our border“, she writes, among other things.

She is not the only one who has been questioned. Another member of the advisory board is also the chairman of a corporation that develops drones. Devices that were central in a major discussion last year about collaboration between the internet giant and the US military.

Not the right place

In the meantime, unrest has also arisen within the advisory board itself. Behavioral economist and privacy researcher Alessandro Acquisti decided to withdraw last week. In a message on Twitter he said that “this is not the right place for me to do this important work”. According to a fourth member of the council, professor Joanna Bryson, even worse things are going on with other members of the council.

Jeroen van den Hoven, professor of ethics and technology at [Dutch] Technical University Delft, … believes in general that a well thought-out approach is lacking when appointing these types of councils. “Everyone is an ethicist in the field of artificial intelligence.”

“I think this resembles ethics washing [like greenwashing, pinkwashing, etc.]: an attempt to do something with ethics, but which has been carried out incorrectly”, says Van den Hoven. “Ethics and trust is not something that you can arrange or that is for sale. In my opinion, this is too little too late.” …

Google did not want to answer questions from the NOS about this case.

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