Twitter Appoints Li Fei-Fei to Board of Directors

Twitter China

Twitter appointed Li Fei-Fei, former Vice President of Google, to its Board of Directors as an “independent director.”

For anyone wondering why this is such a controversial event, Twitter certainly doesn’t help by describing her career at Google with one short sentence: “From January 2017 to September 2018, Dr. Li was Vice President at Google and served as Chief Scientist of AI/ML at Google Cloud.” Thankfully, Taiwan News is here to help fill in the gaps:

Li quit Google in 2018 after a trail of leaked internal emails revealed that she appeared to be more concerned about the public relations damage to Google’s image if news broke about the company’s work on Project Maven than the ethical issues raised by over 3,000 Google employees.

Project Maven is a U.S. Department of Defense AI project that seeks to use the technology to help military drones select targets from video footage.

During her tenure at Google, there is no public record of Li objecting to the controversial Project Dragonfly, which was meant to be a search engine that would suit China’s censorship rules, as she opened an AI research facility in Beijing.

So to sum up, during her time as Vice President of Google, the company:

  1. helped the US drone more efficiently (Project Maven).
  2. helped China censor more efficiently (Project Dragonfly).
  3. opened an AI research facility in Beijing, the surveillance capital of the world.

Furthermore, Radio Free Asia highlights additional shady areas in Li’s background:

Li has been linked to a students’ association under the aegis of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department.

Li also has ties to the Beijing-based Future Forum … The organization operates under the aegis of the state-run China Association for Science and Technology, and is supported by Beijing’s Chaoyang District Government …

Taiwan News also reported that after just a week of Li being hired, several Chinese dissident accounts were suspended without notice or for vague reasons. Coincidentally, most of these accounts had posted something critical of Li Fei-Fei shortly before being shutdown.

Sources / Relevant Material

  1. PR Newswire "Twitter Appoints Dr. Fei-Fei Li to Board of Directors" by Twitter, Inc. (11 May 2020)
  2. Taiwan News "Petition calls for investigation into Twitter censorship after hiring of Li Fei-Fei" by Keoni Everington (25 May 2020)
  3. Radio Free Asia "Twitter's Hiring of China-Linked AI Expert Sparks Concern" by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man and Zheng Chongsheng (20 May 2020)