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Facebook backs an independent AI ethics research center

It has first-hand experience with ethical concerns in AI.
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Joerg Koch/Getty Images

Facebook is just as interested as its peers in fostering ethical AI. The social network has teamed up with the Technical University of Munich to back the formation of an independent AI ethics research center. The plainly titled Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence will wield the university' academic resources to explore issues that "industry alone cannot answer," including those in areas like fairness, privacy, safety and transparency.

Facebook is providing an initial grant of $7.5 million over the space of five years, and says it might also share its own findings and tools. TUM's Dr. Christoph Lütge will lead the Institute with the help of an advisory board that includes people from the academic world, business and civil society. The new research hub will also be free to not only publish its work, but to collaborate with outside experts and institutions.

The move comes as Facebook continues to grapple with its own AI-related ethics issues. People have accused it of political bias and other forms of discrimination through its algorithms, which handle tasks ranging from prioritization of your News Feed to content filtering and ad targeting. Outside ethics research could help Facebook keep its AI fair and prevent incidents it otherwise wouldn't have anticipated.

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