Posted on April 28, 2023

Federal Regulators Call AI Discrimination a ‘New Civil Rights Frontier’

Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, April 25, 2023

Regulators across the Biden administration on Tuesday unveiled a plan to enforce existing civil rights laws against artificial intelligence systems that perpetuate discrimination, as the rapid evolution of ChatGPT and other generative artificial intelligence tools exacerbates long-held concerns about bias in American society.

With AI increasingly used to make decisions about hiring, credit, housing and other services, top leaders from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal watchdogs warned about the risk of “digital redlining.” The officials said they are concerned that faulty data sets and poor design choices could perpetuate racial disparities. They promised to use existing law to combat those harms.

“There is no AI exemption to the laws on the books,” said Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan (D), one of several regulators who appeared during the Tuesday news conference to signal a “whole of government” approach.

The event was intended as a demonstration of Washington’s determination to grapple with how AI is transforming Americans’ lives — for better or worse — and reflected years-long concerns from Biden administration regulators that Silicon Valley represents a new battleground for racial justice.

Charlotte A. Burrows, the chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, called rapid AI development a “new civil rights frontier.”


At that meeting, council members discussed a draft of a report on artificial intelligence prepared for President Biden that calls on him to create a “Chief Responsible AI Officer” who would be responsible for coordinating AI response across the federal government. {snip}

The council said it would convene a panel to examine bias in technologies used by law enforcement, such as facial recognition.


Many of Biden’s appointees, from the White House to the Justice Department, had hoped to use the levers of government to counter what they perceived as the ways tech platforms could be used to discriminate against marginalized groups. But as Biden announces his reelection bid and attention turns to the 2024 election, their big ambitions are colliding with a ticking clock.

At Tuesday’s news conference, regulators from the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Justice Department and the EEOC expressed an urgency to address both rapid developments in generative artificial intelligence, but also algorithms that have long been influencing employment, finances and other areas of the American economy.