Earlier in 2018, Google responded to employee backlash over the company’s role in helping to develop a controversial artificial intelligence program in conjunction with the US Department of Defense and officially announced they would not renew the contract. Gizmodo first reported on the announcement, which was made internally by Google Cloud CEO, Diane Green.
The AI program in question, Project Maven, would used to enhance military-grade drone aircraft and ostensibly allow for advancements such as improved target recognition. Though the Project was claimed to not be intended for combat usage, several Google employees publicly criticized the company’s involvement and some even went so far as to resign.
The move to effectively cancel the contract may prove as or even more controversial the original decision to pursue Project Maven. Though some have praised Google for backing out of the deal, others have been quick to point to rumors that they have continued cooperating with the Chinese government in developing a censored version of their search engine for use in China.
“Google said it wouldn’t bow to Beijing’s censorship, and it should stick to its word, especially now that it’s canceled its partnership with our military,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). “Google claims to value freedom, and one hopes Google will put its corporate principles and America first, ahead of Chinese cash.”
Supporters of the move by Google have countered that the decision is their right as a corporation operating in a free market system. “I don’t think we want to be like China,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). “We have a system where we have free enterprise, and companies have the autonomy to decide what they want to do.”