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Google Employees Slam Heritage Foundation Prez’s New Role

Anti-LGBTQ group’s leader to advise tech giant on AI

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More than 2,000 Google employees and others in the tech industry have written a letter demanding that the tech giant revoke its appointment of the president of the anti-LGBTQ Heritage Foundation to its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC).

The April 1 letter was delivered less than a week after Google announced the formation of ATEAC, which includes a wide array of individuals who will provide advice regarding ethical issues raised by the emergence of artificial intelligence.

Kay Cole James, who has served as president of the far-right think tank since December of 2017, frequently voices her opposition to LGBTQ rights and has peddled baseless conspiracy theories about how the Equality Act — a proposed federal LGBTQ nondiscrimination measure — would “open every female bathroom and sports team to biological males.”

“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 letter stated.

The letter also noted that the person who appointed James later doubled down and defended the decision as one that gives ATEAC “diversity of thought,” drawing further outrage from Google employees.

“This is a weaponization of the language of diversity,” the letter continued. “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. “

The letter argues that James’ appointment is also problematic at a time when there are unsettled questions about the ways AI could harm marginalized groups. According to the letter, AI doesn’t recognize trans folks, doesn’t “hear” voices that are more feminine, doesn’t “see” women of color, and enhances police surveillance.

The Heritage Foundation broadly touts its mission as one “based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense,” but it has had a big hand in pushing back against LGBTQ rights nationwide and enjoys a major voice in influencing policy in Donald Trump’s Washington.

Most recently, the organization has placed a heavy focus on opposing transgender rights. On the same day as the first-ever hearings on the Equality Act this month, the Heritage Foundation tweeted about how the bill would “put women at a disadvantage — costing female athletes the titles, records, and scholarships that are rightfully theirs.”

Heritage has recently published articles focused on its transgender-specific complaints about the Equality Act. One article warned that the bill would “penalize Americans who don’t affirm new sexual norms or gender ideology” and “enable sexual assault” by leaving “women and children in particular vulnerable to predators.”

Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment about its appointment of James to ATEAC.

Updated 1:50 pm, April 4, 2019
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