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Facebook will donate $7.5 million for the creation of The Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence, a research center being made to explore topics such as transparency and accountability in medical treatment and human rights in human-AI interaction.

The announcement was made today during a speech by COO Sheryl Sandberg at the Digital Life Design (DLD) conference in Munich, Germany and is Facebook’s first investment in an independent center to study ethics in AI, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

The money will be doled out over the course of the next five years for the institute at the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

The center will open in February and areas of research will include medical and health, business, manufacturing, media, policy making,  and the web-economy, a university spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.


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Dr. Christoph Lütge, a professor at the school, will serve as director.

Like initiatives undertaken by other AI research think tanks, the Institute for Ethics in Artificial Intelligence will work to share its research through conferences and symposiums with the wider community of AI practitioners.

The center will also explore funding revenue beyond donations from Facebook.

Earlier this week, Facebook also gave $300 million to local news initiatives.

TUM’s School of Governance was one of a handful of contributors to the November 2018 report “An Ethical Framework for a Good AI Society” from AI4People, a group of influential AI researchers in Europe brought together by the Atomium European Institute.

TUM also recently established a school of robotics and machine and intelligence and in February 2018 signed a long-term partnership with Google.

In addition to the invested announcement today, Facebook is a member of the Partnership on AI, a group formed in late 2016 to explore AI ethics and how the technology can be used for good.

Member organizations include major tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Baidu, and Google, as well as nonprofits like Amnesty International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Updated 8:15 am Jan. 20 to include comment about research topics from a TUM spokesperson.

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