Axon’s Taser Drone plans have been prompted to resign by the AI ​​Ethics Board

The majority of Axon’s AI Ethics Department resigned in protest yesterday, after a notification last week that the company planned to equip drones with Tasers and cameras as a way to end mass shootings in schools.

The company has supported suggestions Sunday, but the damage was done. Axon asked for advice for the first time Board considered a pilot program to equip some police departments with Taser drones last year and again last month. The majority of the AI ​​Ethics Committee, which includes AI ethics experts, law professors, and advocates of police reform and civil liberties, opposed it both times. Advisory board chairman Barry Friedman told WIRED that Axon has never asked the team to review any scenario involving schools and the launch of the pilot program that did not address the concerns raised. before that is the removal of the board and its established process.

In one joint resignation letter announced today, nine members of the AI ​​Ethics Council said the company appears to be “trading on the tragedy of the recent mass shootings” in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas. Despite mentioning both mass shootings in one Press Release Announcing the pilot project, Axon CEO Rick Smith denied allegations that the company’s proposal was an opportunity in a Reddit AMA. Smith said a Taser drone could still be around for many more years, but he envisions 50 to 100 Taser drones in a school, operated by trained staff. Before Axon halted the pilot project, Freidman called it a “poor idea” and said that if the idea is unlikely to materialize, Axon’s pitch “distracts the world from the solutions. real solution to a serious problem.”

Another signer of the resignation, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo, called Axon’s idea of ​​testing Taser drones in schools “a very, very bad idea”. Meaningful change to curb gun violence in the United States requires confronting issues like alienation, racism, and widespread access to guns. The child deaths in Uvalde, Texas, didn’t happen, Calo said, because the school lacked Workers.

“If we are to tackle the prospect of violence in schools, we all know that there are better ways to do it,” he said.

The Board of Directors has previously expressed concern that the drones are weaponized can lead increased use of force by police, especially in communities of color. A report detailing an advisory panel review of a pilot program was released this fall.

The real disappointment, Calo said, was that the company didn’t do exactly what the board advised. It was Axon that announced the Taser-drone plan before the board could fully detail its objections. “Suddenly, out of nowhere, the company decided to abandon that process,” he said. “That’s why it’s so disappointing.”

He finds it hard to imagine that police or trained personnel in a school would have the situational awareness to use Taser drones with caution. Even if a drone operator successfully saves the lives of suspects or people in marginalized or vulnerable communities, the technology won’t stay there.

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