Big Tech and Algorithmic Bias

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  • Recent Movement From U.S. Cities To Push Back On Algorithmic Bias
    • District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine introduced a bill to bar companies from using discriminatory algorithms in key areas, including access to employment, education, housing, healthcare, insurance and credit.[1]
      • Racine observed that algorithms can “reflect and replicate historical bias, exacerbating existing inequalities and harming marginalized communities.”
    • New York City Council passed a first-in-the-nation law requiring audits of algorithms used in employment decisions.[2]
    • A New York City medical coalition announced it would work to remove race as a factor in certain algorithms used to assess and recommend patient treatment options.
  • European Regulators are looking at self-dealing
    • Polish regulators announced a new investigation into whether Apple changed its app tracking rules to promote its own advertising service.[3]
    • EEOC Announced Initiative To Hold AI Accountable For Discrimination
      • EEOC announced a new initiative to ensure that artificial intelligence and related tools used for employment decisions were used fairly and in a manner that complies with federal anti-discrimination laws.
      • EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows stated that the commission was “keenly aware that these tools may mask and perpetuate bias or create new discriminatory barriers to jobs.”
  • Uptick In Congressional Oversight Around Algorithmic Bias & Harm
    • In December 2021, the House and Senate each held hearings on holding tech and social media platforms accountable for harms, including those perpetrated by use of algorithmic tools.[4]
    • Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz stated, “I don’t think this is going to be effective if it’s voluntary. Coders are not going to wake up and think about the ethics...The only way for an effective counterweight ... is to establish in federal law to not harm consumers whose data is collected.”
    • Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke observed that “Increasingly, algorithms are being used by large companies to determine everything from who is eligible for health care coverage, to whether or not a home buyer receives a mortgage.”
    • Republican Rep. Greg Pence stated, “Social media platforms monetize inflammatory content using opaque algorithms and tactics intended to manipulate the tendency of its users.”
  • Strong Bipartisan Support For Recently Introduced American Innovation & Choice Act
    • American Innovation and Choice Act (AICO) was introduced in the Senate with strong bipartisan support:
      • Republican Sen. Grassley and Democrat Sen. Klobuchar led the bill and its original cosponsors included 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans.
      • Republican Rep. Ken Buck said claims that the bills were “Democratic bills” was “false.”
    • In September 2021, a bipartisan majority of state attorneys general called for an update to the nation’s antitrust laws and passage of AICO in a letter to Congress.
    • AICO had strong support from consumer and tech accountability advocates including Consumer Reports, Public Citizen, and Accountable Tech.
    • AICO had strong support from within the tech community because it would restore competition to the marketplace. Companies that backed the bill included Yelp, Spotify, and the Coalition for App Fairness.
    • In September 2021, Public Knowledge led a group of consumer advocacy, public interest, and labor groups in urging passage of AICO. The group included the American Independent Business Alliance, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Service Employees International Union.