Bullying and shunning are problems, not solutions

The questions in this are from a reporter at The Register – thanks reporter! [Update: here's the article she used it in, which is honestly a bit better than this blogpost.] Stuff in square brackets [] are things I didn't tell the reporter that I've just fleshed out here. See also the comments section below for the definitions of "bullying" and "shunning" I was using; there are quite concrete academic definitions for these.

What was James' role in ATEAC?

I am [willing to serve] on ATEAC because I think integrating the tech giants into global governance is one of the most pressing problems on the planet, with consequences for democracy, sustainability, and the rule of law. I firmly believe the world will be a better place if Google has access to what I know and am willing to share, and if I know more about what Google believes and is willing to do. Google have indicated they have specific questions and once I've heard them I will know whether I'm willing to answer them.

I assume James' role is the same as mine. She is also the main one with experience of writing technology policy for USA Republican administrations.  [Edit: I subsequently found out more about our intended roles and have blogged about it.]

What do you think about her previous comments? 

I haven't read them. I do not feel obliged to give Google general advice on ethics, rather only in areas of my own academic expertise.

Do you think it's fair to remove her from the board? Why or why not? 

I don't think fairness is a relevant issue here. [This is about what is right, wrong, and efficacious.] I am openly liberal and as such I believe that bullying and shunning are problems, not solutions.  If James has done things that are illegal then she should go to jail. If she has done things that should be illegal but are not, then we should work together to change the laws. If she is in the room when I'm talking to Google, then I will try to learn from her like I try to learn from everyone, and I will try to persuade her to my perspective, as again I would do with anyone.

Does this change what you think about the board at all? 

Not really. I was already aware that Google has conservative senior employees whose views I am strongly opposed to.

Do you still want to be involved?

I still feel that being involved is a way I can be of service.

I doubt I am smarter or wiser than these women.

You might also be interested in my only previous blogpost about Google policy, Don't be evil (don't be brittle).

Addendum (19 April 2019) new Nature Human Behaviour paper (not by me!) The wisdom of polarized crowds


JRD said…
Thank you for being a voice of reason. If we do not listen to those who disagree with us (assuming they argue in good faith), we will never find common ground. We will never find a way to work together. This is a board position: the ideal place for multiple voices to be heard. She isn't dictating ideas, she is part of a team. She should be given a chance.
Joanna Bryson said…
Thanks JRD. Boo, this is the first nice comment I haven't been able to +1 or anything because Google+ got mothballed!

I had an interesting conversation with Cathy O'Neill that made me realise I should define my terms. Bullying is a means of manipulating an ingroup by ostracising people on its edge or even in the outgroup. Adult bullying (particularly in work places) often takes the form of cutting someone off of communication or giving them busy work to do so that they don't do the good work the bully finds threatening.

Shaming is a form of public / social sanction, where an entire group can be lead to either ostracise or force conformity upon an individual seen to be violating an ingroup's norms. It's a very basic biological strategy that fish and monkeys use too, there it's usually just called "sanctioning" in biology. I actually study sanctioning, also known as punishment when applied to humans, see My research page on public goods investment, punishment, and polarisation.
Joanna Bryson said…
Sorry, not fish, birds. Doesn't look like I can edit comments now :-/ Probably fish do it to TBH someone should ask Iain Couzin :-) but anyway if they do I don't know about it.