Congresswoman Watson Coleman and Congressman Cleaver Demand Accountability from the Internet Association to Address the use of Artificial Intelligence Exacerbating On-line Racial and Gender Bias

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Washington, D.C., November 20, 2017 | Kirsten Allen - 202-225-5801 | comments
Members wrote a letter to the largest trade group of internet companies seeking concrete commitments to combat on-line bias

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) wrote a letter to the President and CEO of the Internet Association, Michael Beckerman, urging the organization to stop the spread of racial and gender bias through technology and adopt practices and policies to hold members accountable when it comes to the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. The letter is here.

“As AI technology continues to expand and touch all areas of our lives, from social media, medicine, traffic management, airport security, retail inventory, to online lending, and education, it is imperative that policy makers carefully attempt to balance policies and regulations that mitigate social and ethical risks while providing an environment that allows for and supports innovation in industries such as yours,” the letter states.

Cleaver and Watson Coleman are asking that the Internet Association respond to the following questions:

• Is there a process in your association to review, test, share, and manage member datasets, algorithms or products to ensure that there is not a gender, racial, or religious bias?

• Has the Internet Association implemented any best practices to limit the proliferation of discriminatory biases and/or radical ideology?

• Is there a process and/or platform that can educate the public and Internet Association members on how to spot, identify and notify the group of racial or gender bias content?

“We are continuing to demand answers because this issue affects so much of our daily encounters. We are constantly seeing information on our phones, tablets, and computers. We want to make sure the technology we use is working to solve, rather than magnify, our most difficult social challenges.” said Congressman Cleaver.

"With an ever-evolving and advancing digital landscape - users reap great benefit from the ease and speed in which we are able to reach across the globe with the click of a mouse or the touch of a button. But we must take seriously the fact that individuals and organizations with harmful intent have that same access," said Watson Coleman. "The Internet Association and its member organizations must seek to proactively ensure that they can readily identify those bad actors and the threat they can pose, both directly and indirectly, to the livelihood of the men and women who use their platforms. As Vice Ranking Member on the House Homeland Security Committee, I have seen the harms that cyber threats pose to our security, and despite the nuanced challenges posed by online threats, we must be vigilant in our efforts to protect our homeland - digital and physical." Watson Coleman continued.

Last month, Congressman Cleaver and Congresswoman Watson Coleman sent a letter to Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, encouraging him to take immediate action to combat the spread of racially divisive communications and take seriously the threat of foreign entities’ use of the site to undermine American democracy. Weeks later, the lawmakers were among members of the Congressional Black Caucus who met with, Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, to discuss allegations that Russian-backed agencies exploited the company’s system to influence the outcome of the 2016 election through the spread of racial and discriminatory messaging.

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