WASHINGTON– In testimony today before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, highlighted the pressing civil rights challenges posed by the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) on consumers. The testimony was read as part of the Subcommittee’s hearing entitled “The New Invisible Hand? The Impact of Algorithms on Competition and Consumer Rights.”
In his testimony, Hewitt emphasized the profound risks posed by the unregulated deployment of algorithmic systems on consumer and civil rights. Pointing out the inherent biases that occur when systems rely on societal data that reflect historical discrimination, Hewitt explained how the technology can perpetuate and reinforce past patterns of inequality if not carefully designed and proactively tested.
“The harms of algorithmic discrimination are already denying millions of Americans equal opportunity in our economy,” stated Hewitt. “Instead of aiding consumers, AI tools too often create distortions in the marketplace, reflecting exclusion rather than fairness and closing doors in the virtual world that have discriminatory effects in real life. Left unchecked, these harmful impacts will continue to grow as AI is deployed in every aspect of our lives. But it doesn’t need to be this way. Congress must act quickly to enact legislation and ensure that algorithmic systems are safe, effective, and fair.”
To ensure that technology serves everyone, Hewitt introduced a set of guiding principles legislation should be based on, including prohibiting algorithmic discrimination, conducting assessments for bias before and after deployment of the technology, establishing a duty of care, protecting personal data, providing transparency and explainability for how AI systems operate, and ensuring robust oversight and accountability.
Reflecting on the imperative to bring civil rights protections into the 21st century, Hewitt called for Congress to prioritize ensuring equal opportunity in the digital marketplace. In the context of today’s challenges, including the mass accumulation of personal data to fuel algorithmic technologies, he underscored the need to uphold the living legacy of the civil rights movement by enshrining protections for consumers and guaranteeing fair access to information, goods, and services on every platform.
Watch Hewitt’s full testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights here.
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.