A bill to protect people from discriminatory algorithms in play in DC

New “first of its kind” legislation that would ban discrimination based on algorithm bias was introduced in D.C. on Thursday.

Attorney General for the District Karl Racine said that the Stop Discrimination by Algorithms Act would make it illegal for companies to use discriminatory algorithms to make decisions about “key areas” of life.

“These algorithms are making important judgements that impact individual’s educational opportunities, health and heath care opportunities,” Racine said.

Racine said the problem is with the data used to feed the algorithms.

“We need to make sure that those algorithms do not have, imbedded in them, discrimination against people, including race, gender class” he said.

A news release from the attorney general’s office states that the legislation will be the first comprehensive bill of its type across the country. It adds that the bill would hold businesses accountable for preventing biases in their automated decision-making algorithms and require them to report and correct any bias against protected groups that is detected.

A letter sent to the D.C. Council acknowledged that the bill would empower the attorney general’s office to file suit against these companies. If an algorithm’s decision goes against a consumer, the company would also have to provide an in-depth explanation on why. Violations would be met with fines of up to $10,000.

“Not surprisingly, algorithmic decision-making computer programs have been convincingly proven to replicate and, worse, exacerbate racial and other illegal bias in critical services that all residents of the United States require to function in our treasured capitalistic society,” Racine said.

Nassim Moshiree, policy director of the ACLU of the District of Columbia, supported the bill.

“Racism is hard wired into all our systems and institutions in ways that hold back Black and brown folks when it comes to everything from education, to employment, to health, and wealth,” Moshiree said.

In April, the Federal Trade Commission decried the use of artificial intelligence in ways that discriminated against others based on protected legal classes. Racine has bolstered this sentiment in the District throughout his tenure. He has sued several companies, including Facebook, Google and Amazon, over subjects like data use and monopolization.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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