Signal’s Meredith Whittaker: ‘These are the people who could actually pause AI if they wanted to’

  • June 11, 2023
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The president of the not-for-profit messaging app on how she believes existential warnings about AI allow big tech to entrench their power, and why the online safety bill may be unworkable

Meredith Whittaker is the president of Signal – the not-for-profit secure messaging app. The service, along with WhatsApp and similar messaging platforms, is opposing the UK government’s online safety bill which, among other things, seeks to scan users’ messages for harmful content. Prior to Signal, Whittaker worked at Google, co-founded NYU’s AI Now Institute and was an adviser to the Federal Trade Commission.

After 10 years at Google you organised the walkout over the company’s attitude to sexual harassment accusations, after which in 2019 you were forced out. How did you feel about that?
Let me go back into some of the details, because there’s a kind of broad story, and it matters for this moment. I was running a research group looking at the social implications of AI. I was pretty well known in the company and outside as somebody who discussed these issues in ways that were counter to Google’s public messaging. I was an internal dissenter, an academic.

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