Kate Devlin, an artificial intelligence and society reader at King’s College, London, was blocked from giving a talk to a government department on women and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It would appear that this rescinded invitation is retaliation for her critique of particular government regulations on social media and online content, despite the government’s professed interest in protecting free speech on college campuses.
November 4, 2022
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA, United Kingdom
Dear Prime Minister Sunak:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers, and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We are writing in regard to Dr. Kate Devlin of King’s College London, who is a reader in artificial intelligence and society. She was recently blocked from giving a talk to a Government Department on women and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It would appear that this rescinded invitation is retaliation for her critique of particular government regulations on social media and online content, despite it not being aimed at the current government and despite the government saying it would do its due diligence on her background before inviting her.
The UK government has professed interest in protecting free speech on college campuses. Blocking Kate Devlin from speaking to the Government Department represents a betrayal of such policies. It does not appear to have been canceled for politically impartial reasons, as required by the civil service code.
The CCS is especially concerned that this canceled talk appears to be part of a recurring pattern of blocking academics who are critical of government officials or policies from helping to educate government employees. In particular, last year, Prof. Priyamvada Gopal of the University of Cambridge, was blocked from giving a talk about colonial history.
We write to urge your government to allow Dr. Kate Devlin and other academics to give such talks in the future unimpeded. The content of her talk does not come anywhere close to inciting violence and should be allowed to proceed.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter. We will be closely following developments in this case.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Jane D. Hartley
Ambassador to the United Kingdom
U.S. Embassy London
33 Nine Elms Lane
London, SW11 7US
Antony J. Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520 USA
Dame Karen Elizabeth Pierce
Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America
British Embassy Washington
3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Affairs
King Charles Street
London, SW1A 2AH, United Kingdom