Google dissolved an independent advisory group on AI ethics less than two weeks after forming it, after being engulfed in a media storm about the identity of committee members.

The Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC) had been formed to assess challenges and ethical issues related to the use of technologies such as AI, machine learning and facial recognition. It comprised academics, industry experts and individuals involved in public policy.

Since unveiling the identity of the ATEAC members, US news outlets, led by agency Vox, published stories on the backlash against members of the council.

Within a week of Google’s grand unveiling academic Alessandro Acquisti resigned from the group, announcing on Twitter he didn’t believe it was the “right forum” to assess key ethical issues.

Another, Kay Coles James, was the subject of a Google employee petition to have her removed for alleged controversial opinions on immigration and LGBTQ rights.

The inclusion of a representative from a drone company with links to the US military also caused uproar among some commentators.

In a statement announcing the dissolution of the committee yesterday (4 April), Google 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.”