When Warnock and Ossoff take office, the US Senate will be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris is allowed to act as a tiebreaker on every 50:50 vote, giving Democrats a narrow path to get bills passed. Ahead of last fall’s general election, VentureBeat spoke to technology policy experts closely monitoring Congress about how the US Senate’s democratic scrutiny could transform the way AI is regulated and its impact on people’s lives.
For this newsletter, we asked these four experts to share their thoughts on the biggest uprising in the US Capitol in over two centuries. Major tech policy issues facing a democratically controlled U.S. Senate include facial recognition regulations, net neutrality, automated discrimination and algorithmic bias, Section 230, Broadband Infrastructure Funding, Biometric Privacy, and Data Protection.
Jevan Hutson is an attorney, privacy attorney, and human-computer interaction researcher who proposed law in Washington state to regulate AI. He told VentureBeat this week that he was concerned that the white supremacist coup attempt could result in state and state lawmakers doubling down on surveillance. He fears that this will continue to arm the technology and injure those disproportionately affected by police violence.
“The damage will continue to fall on marginalized communities. Even if it’s in the service of “OK, we’re going to catch the white supremacists who stormed the Capitol,” you can’t separate the expansion of the police force in one case from the way that power works in other cases. ” he said.
The use of facial recognition entered the conversation shortly after the riot ended when the Washington Times falsely reported that XRVision company’s facial recognition was used to identify Antifa protesters in the crowd at the U.S. Capitol, a claim by Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) repeated during the trial to review the results of the electoral college. The Washington Times story was later corrected to remove this claim. However, the FBI is using facial recognition technology to identify individuals involved in the violation of the U.S. Capitol, NBC news correspondent Garrett Haake reported Thursday.
“This will only serve to expand police surveillance power at a time when it is in dire need of distortion,” Hutson said. “We don’t want to give them additional tools to get involved in this oppression further.”
Hutson is not alone in this opinion. Detroit-based technical justice attorney Tawana Petty said she opposes the use of facial recognition to investigate U.S. Capitol violations. The founder of Fight for the Future, Evan Greer, made a similar appeal in a Fast Company published on Friday entitled “You cannot fight fascism by expanding the police state.”
I keep hearing the media improve facial recognition to find the people who stormed the Capitol. No, I do not support the use of face recognition in this case either. Blacks will always lose in the end. No exceptions to the rule. # BanFacialRecognition
– Tawana Petty (@Combsthepoet) January 7, 2021
Congressmen from both sides of the aisle have spoken about restricting the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement agencies, but few regulations or standards currently limit predictive policing or the use of facial recognition by police. In the Turning Point AI guideline book, Darrell M. West and John R. Allen of the Brookings Institution suggest that a legal review be conducted on facial recognition technology that is consistent with the procedure required to obtain a search warrant. Allen, a former US Forces leader in Afghanistan, warned in June that Trump’s decision to provide tear gas to protesters against Black Lives Matter (BLM) may have signaled the beginning of the end of American democracy.
Malkia Devich-Cyril is a longtime advocate of equitable digital rights and the founder of Media Justice. Last year she co-authored the oversight section of the Vision for Black Lives strategy platform created by 50 black organizations.
“I can say that more than ever we urgently need reforms that hold platform companies like Facebook and Twitter accountable [their] Schwarz, Latinx and other users who are supposed to suffer disproportionate harm. It has taken far too long for these companies to de-platform the white Supremacist users, ”said Devich-Cyril. “On the contrary, they gave them help and comfort and we saw the result.”
In a similar policy proposal earlier this week, Roger McNamee, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, argued that Wednesday’s events underscore the need for social media companies to abandon a business model that encourages the spread of hateful content and misinformation.
Facebook knows that its recommendation algorithms are responsible for the majority of the people who join extremist groups on its platform. Google’s YouTube algorithm also has a reputation for radicalizing users and spreading conspiracy theories.
Betsy Cooper heads the Aspen Tech Policy Hub’s incubator for software and guidelines for solving societal problems. She told VentureBeat she also expected increased pressure on social media companies after the Capitol attack.
“Even skeptics are now seeing the traumatic impact that misinformation and online groupthink can have on our democracy, especially that online rhetoric can lead to violence in real life. Social media companies will struggle to defend their choices to show radical content to users, even when such content can be extremely profitable, “she said.
In response to the uprising, Twitter banned Donald Trump permanently from his platform and Facebook and Instagram blocked President Trump’s account at least until the day of his inauguration. Alphabet Workers Union members (yes, that happened this week too) urged Google to block the president’s YouTube account.
On Thursday, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), who will chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement that he was delighted that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are cracking down on “ongoing abuse of their platforms for sowing.” Discord and violence ”, but he called these actions“ both too late and nowhere near enough ”.
Cooper also said that although Democrats will soon control both houses of Congress, their close leadership means moderate Democrats will have a huge impact on technology policy making.
Ernesto Falcon is a former Hill employee and senior legal advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He believes that with the elections in Georgia we will see a change in committee chairpersons and more antitrust measures in the Senate than before.
“I see a great match between the work David Cicilline (D-RI) has done on the House side and many Senate Democrats who are now taking the hammer on the Justice Committee,” he said.
He expects Congress to continue to show an interest in oversight and investigation into misinformation. However, regarding Section 230, which social media platforms currently use to protect liability, he believes that a lack of consensus will make immediate reform unlikely.
“I don’t think Congress is coherent enough in a logical and thoughtful way to understand what to do with 230 regarding legislative changes,” he said, adding that Congress’ interest in regulation could decline if it did Social media platforms are doing important self-regulatory steps.
After all, Falcon anticipates that Congress will soon allocate significant funds to broadband access to end the digital divide. The HEROES bill was passed last year with support for billions of dollars in funding and grant programs for broadband infrastructure, but was held off a vote by Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Falcon anticipates that Congress activity in the coming months will primarily focus on issues caused or highlighted by the pandemic, including broadband access.
It is true that social media platforms with an economic incentive to use algorithms to spread hate and conspiracy theories are partly to blame for recent events, as has the president, who has long used racist dog whistles for political ends. However, these are just accelerators of toxic conditions that have already been here. There was bare white supremacy in Washington, a social hierarchy older than the United States that needs to be dismantled for the good of all of us.
In this newsletter, we seek to focus on the next steps in technology policy as AI and technology are tied into a number of structural issues that are important to people’s lives, from false facial recognition to false black attachments Men leads to the diffusion of remote monitoring technologies that can be used to disadvantage people with marginalized backgrounds.
AI and tech issues, and the way lawmakers deal with them, will have a profound impact on the United States and could prove critical to the future of democracy in the US and abroad. Commenting on the salvation of the soul of America, the late Congressman John Lewis, whose memorial service was destroyed on Wednesday, said: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act. ”
While our technology policy experts have expressed great concern on some issues, they are not without hope. Progressive change is often an uphill struggle for marginalized communities, Devich-Cyril said, but a Democratic Senate provides “fuel to keep the journey going”.
For AI coverage, send news tips to Khari Johnson and Kyle Wiggers, as well as AI editor Seth Colaner – and be sure to subscribe to the AI Weekly newsletter and bookmark The Machine.
Thank you for reading,
Senior AI Staff Writer