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Legislation Needed Now to Prevent Discrimination and Other Harms, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Urges Congress to Use its Model AI Bill as Blueprint

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Todd Young (R-IN), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) released their AI report, “Driving U.S. Innovation in Artificial Intelligence,” following a months-long series of closed-door AI Insight Forums. While the report acknowledges the risks that AI can pose to equal opportunity, election integrity, and privacy, it does not propose solutions that would adequately protect civil rights.  The most detailed provisions of the report would actually allow ongoing AI-driven harms to fester and leave Black and Brown communities behind.

Many members of the civil rights community–including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law–participated in the AI Insight Forums and made concrete recommendations to address the intersection of AI and racial justice. In December of 2023, the Lawyers’ Committee released the “Online Civil Rights Act”— a civil rights-focused model bill to regulate AI, which has been endorsed by twenty other civil rights and advocacy organizations.

The Senators’ report acknowledges briefly some of the obvious risks that AI tools pose to equal opportunity and fair elections. And it urges Congress to pass a comprehensive privacy law and increase funding for election administration. But, overall, the report does not offer many specific proposals to address the wide array of risks that AI poses to civil rights, which communities of color grapple with every day. Moreover, some critical subjects are not addressed at all, such as the use of AI in policing, criminal justice, and immigration enforcement.

The following is a statement from Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“We are deeply disappointed that the AI framework does little to advance serious proposals for protecting civil rights. While the report briefly raises issues that the civil rights community has raised consistently, it is completely devoid of substantive recommendations or legislative steps to address them. In that regard, what is billed as a roadmap seems more like a treadmill–lots of energy expended, but little forward movement.

Congress’s work is incomplete unless it follows through with concrete legislation, and time is running out. We urge Congress to enact protections like those in the Lawyers’ Committee’s model legislation, the “Online Civil Rights Act,” which includes a prohibition on algorithmic discrimination, establishes a duty of care for the use of AI, requires pre-and post-deployment testing for bias and other harms, gives individuals a right to an explanation for how AI affects them, and ensures data used for AI is kept private and secure. These measures will help to ensure meaningful transparency, safety, and fairness in AI technologies.

“With unregulated AI-driven decisions impacting equal opportunity and the general election season around the corner, it is imperative that Congress move swiftly to regulate AI and protect civil rights online. We cannot afford to wait another year for legislation to protect our rights amidst a rapidly growing technological landscape. The time to act is now.”


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.