WASHINGTON – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law unveiled the Online Civil Rights Act, model legislation designed to provide lawmakers with a framework for crafting bills that address the risks around consumer privacy, discrimination, and racial bias posed by algorithmic systems, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and large language models.
The Online Civil Rights Act was endorsed by other legacy civil rights organizations including: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People(NAACP), National Urban League (NUL), National Action Network (NAN), the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and underscore the shared commitment to advancing civil rights in the face of evolving technological challenges.
The policies and regulations proposed in the bill are designed to both mitigate current harms and prevent future threats while also providing a broad, tech-neutral regulatory and governance regime to set guardrails on the use of generative AI and further technological developments. The legislation is the result of an extensive policy review process led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights that surveyed experts in the field and incorporated elements of existing proposals governing the use of AI.
Currently, there is no comprehensive regulation of artificial intelligence, algorithmic systems, or federal privacy law governing how these systems use personal data. In the wake of President Biden’s recent executive order on the implementation of AI systems, this model legislation aims to codify many of the same regulatory principles around preventing bias and ensuring accountability into law, a shared priority of legacy civil rights organizations that advocate for civil rights and privacy protections in the design and deployment of AI.
“In an era marked by rapid technological advancement, it is imperative that our legal frameworks evolve to robustly protect our people from the discriminatory impacts of artificial intelligence,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This model legislation stands as a beacon, setting a new standard for accountability, transparency, and fairness in both the development and deployment of algorithmic systems. This model bill provides a detailed roadmap of solutions that legislators can adopt in whole, or at least in part. By forging this path, we are not only addressing the challenges of today but proactively shaping a future where civil rights remain paramount in the face of evolving technology.”
“History proves that technology has the power to advance progress or erode opportunity. The NAACP continues to urge industry leaders to carefully examine AI technology, ensuring that racial equity remains at the center of policymaking and regulation. As we look towards 2024, it is crucial that the potential for AI-powered mis- and disinformation is addressed. The Black vote is under attack, and we refuse to accept any new barriers to the ballot,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. “It is imperative that Congress protect against the use of generative AI and deep fakes in electioneering ads and ensure that AI is clearly labeled. Federal and state authorities have the responsibility to prevent the exploitation of vulnerable communities and hold bad actors accountable for their attempts to erode democracy. We are proud to support the Online Civil Rights Act, a crucial first step toward safe uses of AI technologies. Now, it’s time for Congress to make this legislation a reality.”
“The use of AI and other algorithmic technologies by corporations can have a dramatic impact on the lives of Black and Brown communities,” National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial said. “Mortgage approval algorithms, tenant screening tools, and strategic pricing algorithms deny equal opportunity and reinforce discrimination across our economy. The Online Civil Rights Act proposes a framework for Congress to progress from theory to reality. This legislation addresses the harms Black and Brown people currently experience by requiring companies to audit for discrimination and bias and steer AI development toward a responsible and inclusive future.”
“As we approach the 2024 presidential election, the unchecked use of technology poses severe risks from the spread of false information to even more discrimination and bias. Black voters of all ages are already under attack, so we must not allow an unforced error in the name of technological progress. To address this, we demand a thorough evaluation of AI systems for discrimination and bias, emphasizing a ‘duty of care’ from developers and standing firm against the imposition of additional obstacles to the voting process for Black voters. We endorse the Online Civil Rights Act as a vital step towards responsible AI use, urging Congress to enact it into law.” said Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of National Action Network
Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable, stated, “It is crucial that we adopt a comprehensive civil rights lens to address the potential physical, psychological, democratic and economic harm this rapidly evolving technology poses to our communities. The Online Civil Rights Act is crucial in addressing these challenges and upholds these principles. As AI becomes more prevalent, it is imperative that civil rights protections are enshrined into the adoption and use of this technology in order to protect against the biases and harms in their algorithmic systems. This model legislation proactively addresses the need to mitigate the threats from misinformation and disinformation that disproportionately affects our communities and maintains a fair and equitable environment, ensuring the integrity of our democratic processes.”
“This legislation is a pivotal step in ensuring that the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence advances in a way that is inclusive, equitable, and respectful of our diverse communities. By advocating for transparency and ethical guidelines in AI development, this legislation aligns with our commitment to social justice and equality, ensuring that technology serves as a tool for empowerment, not exclusion,” said Shavon Arline-Bradley, President and CEO of NCNW
In championing the rights of individuals impacted by algorithmic systems, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights introduces this model legislation, not only to combat algorithmic discrimination but also to prioritize pre-deployment evaluations, data security, transparency, and effective enforcement mechanisms. It signifies a pivotal moment in the pursuit of civil rights, setting a new standard for responsible AI development and deployment.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.