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Meredith Whittaker: AI Warnings and Online Safety Bill Challenges

1 Mins read

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Big Tech’s Power and AI Warnings: Enabling Entrenched Influence

Meredith Whittaker, the president of Signal, a not-for-profit secure messaging app, shares her insights on how existential warnings about AI play into the hands of big tech, allowing them to solidify their power and influence. She delves into the implications of this dynamic and its impact on society.

The Google Walkout and Organizing for Change

Whittaker recounts her experience organizing the walkout at Google, which was a response to the company’s mishandling of sexual harassment accusations. As a prominent voice addressing the social implications of AI, she explains how her dissent within the company led to organizing efforts and tangible outcomes.

Profit vs. Social Good: Big Tech’s Ethical Priorities

Examining the inherent conflict within big tech companies, Whittaker discusses how their primary objectives of growth and profit often take precedence over addressing moral and ethical concerns. She raises important questions about the value placed on stamping out sexual harassment, promoting diversity, and fixing biases in algorithms.

Challenging AI Inequalities: The Ousting of the AI Ethics Unit

Drawing attention to the case of Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, former members of Google’s AI ethics unit, Whittaker explores the consequences of their ousting after warning about the perpetuation of inequalities by AI systems. She reflects on the extent to which Google tolerates critical voices and the implications for advancing responsible AI development.

Convenient Narratives: Future Risks vs. Current Dominance

Whittaker reflects on the divergent reception of warnings about existential risks and the impact on big tech companies. While highlighting the importance of addressing future risks, she emphasizes that convenient narratives projecting those risks into the distant future allow the status quo to remain unchallenged, enabling companies to further entrench their dominance.

Signal’s Stand: Privacy and Opposition to the Online Safety Bill

As a member of Signal’s board, Whittaker discusses the app’s commitment to privacy and its opposition to the online safety bill proposed by the UK government.

She delves into the concerns surrounding the bill’s provisions for scanning users’ messages and the potential implications for privacy and freedom of expression. Whittaker underscores Signal’s unwavering dedication to protecting users’ privacy and maintaining the integrity of their encryption promises.


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