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When Warnock and Ossoff take office, the US Senate will be split evenly between Democrats and Republicans. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be allowed to play the tiebreaker role in any 50-50 vote, giving Democrats a narrow path to passing bills. Ahead of last fall’s general election, VentureBeat spoke with tech policy experts who follow Congress closely on how democratic oversight of the U.S. Senate could change the way AI is regulated and its impact. on people’s lives.

For this newsletter, we asked these four experts to share their thoughts on the aftermath of the largest insurgency on the U.S. Capitol in more than two centuries. Major tech policy issues facing a Democrat-controlled US Senate include the regulation of facial recognition, net neutrality, automated discrimination and algorithmic bias, Section 230, financing of broadband infrastructure, biometric privacy and data privacy protection.

Jevan Hutson is an attorney, privacy advocate, and human-machine interaction researcher who proposed legislation to regulate AI in Washington state. He told VentureBeat this week that he was concerned that the white supremacist coup attempt could lead state and federal lawmakers to double the oversight, which he said won’t beef up the technology and injure those disproportionately affected by police violence.

“Evil will continue to fall on marginalized communities. Even if it’s in the service of ‘OK, we’re going to catch the white supremacists who stormed the Capitol’, you can’t dissociate the expansion of police power in a case from how that power is. will play in others ”. he said.

The use of facial recognition entered the conversation soon after the insurgency ended, when the Washington Times falsely reported that XRVision’s facial recognition was used to identify anti-fias protesters in the crowd at the U.S. Capitol, a claim repeated by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) during proceedings to verify the college’s results electoral. the Washington Times the story was then corrected to remove this claim. But FBI is using facial recognition technology to identify those implicated in the U.S. Capitol breach, NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake reported Thursday.

« It will only work to expand the oversight power of the police at a time when it desperately needs to be defeated, » Hutson said. « We do not want to give them additional tools to engage further in this oppression. »

Hutson is not the only one to have this opinion. Detroit-based tech justice attorney Tawana Petty has said she opposes the use of facial recognition for the investigation of the U.S. Capitol violation. Fight for the Future founder Evan Greer made a similar appeal in a Fast Company op-ed titled Friday « You cannot fight fascism by developing the police state. »

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have already spoken about limiting the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement, but few regulations or standards limit predictive policing or police use. facial recognition police at the moment. In the AI ​​Policy Book Turning, Darrell M. West and John R. Allen of the Brookings Institution suggest putting in place a facial recognition technology legal audit similar to the process required to obtain a search warrant. Allen, a former head of US forces in Afghanistan, warned in June that Trump’s decision to fire tear gas against Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters could have signaled the beginning of the end of American democracy.

Malkia Devich-Cyril is a long-time activist for equitable digital rights and the founder of Media Justice. Last year, she co-authored the watchdog section of the Vision for Black Lives political platform created by 50 black organizations.

“I can say that, more than ever, we urgently need reforms that will hold companies on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to account. [their] Black, Latinx and other targeted users for disproportionate damage. It took too long for these companies to dismantle white supremacist users, ”said Devich-Cyril. « On the contrary, they gave them help and comfort, and we saw the result. »

In a similar policy suggestion this week, Center for Humane Technology co-founder Roger McNamee argued that Wednesday’s events underscore the need for social media companies to abandon a business model that encourages the dissemination of hateful content and of disinformation.

Facebook knows that its recommendation algorithms are responsible for a majority of people joining extremist groups on its platform. Google-owned YouTube algorithm also has a reputation for radicalizing users and spreading conspiracy theories.

Betsy Cooper runs the Aspen Tech Policy Hub incubator for software and policies aimed at solving corporate problems. She told VentureBeat that she also expected increased pressure on social media companies following the attack on Capitol Hill.

“Even skeptics now see the traumatic effect that disinformation and group thinking online can have on our democracy, especially that online rhetoric can lead to real violence. Social media companies will find it difficult to defend their decisions to show users radical content, even though such content can be hugely profitable, ”she said.

In response to the insurgency, Twitter permanently bans Donald Trump of his platform and Facebook and Instagram have suspended President Trump’s account at least until the day of the inauguration. Members of the Alphabet Workers Union (yes, it happened this week too) called on Google to suspend the president’s YouTube account.

On Thursday, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), who will chair the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement he was pleased to see Facebook, Twitter and YouTube take action to tackle « prolonged misuse of their platforms to sow. discord and violence ”, but he called these actions“ too late and not enough ”.

Cooper also said that while Democrats will soon control both houses of Congress, their narrow lead means moderate Democrats will have a lot of influence over technology policy.

Ernesto Falcon is a former Hill staff member and senior legislative advisor to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. He believes that with the election rules in Georgia, we will see a change of committee chairmen and more antitrust action in the Senate than before.

« I see a lot of alignment between the work David Cicillin (D-RI) has done on the House side and many Senate Democrats who are now taking the hammer on the Judiciary Committee, » he said.

He expects Congress to show continued interest in monitoring and investigating disinformation. But on Section 230, which social media platforms are currently using for liability protection, he believes a lack of consensus will make immediate reform unlikely.

« I don’t think Congress is logically and thoughtfully unified enough to address what to do with 230 in terms of legislative changes, » he said, adding that Congress’ interest in regulation could decline if social media platforms take important steps to self-regulate.

Finally, Falcon expects Congress to move on to significant broadband access funding soon to help end the digital divide. The HEROES law was passed in the House last year with the backing of billions of dollars in funding and subsidy programs for broadband infrastructure, but it was not passed by the majority leader, the Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Falcon expects activity in Congress in the coming months to largely focus on issues caused or highlighted by the pandemic, including broadband access.

Final thoughts

It is true that social media platforms with an economic incentive to use algorithms to spread hate and conspiracy theories bear some of the blame for recent events, as does the President, with his well-established history of using racist whistles for political purposes. But these were just accelerators of toxic conditions that were already there. Bare white supremacy was on display in Washington, a social hierarchy older than the United States that must be dismantled for our common good.

In this newsletter, we try to focus the next steps in technology policy, as AI and technology are linked to a range of structural issues important to people’s lives, ranging from misidentification of facial recognition leading to false arrests from black men to the proliferation of remote monitoring technologies that can disadvantage people from marginalized backgrounds.

AI and technology policy issues and how lawmakers approach them will have profound implications for the United States and could prove crucial to the future of democracy in the United States and the United States. foreign. As the late Congressman John Lewis, whose commemorative exhibit was vandalized Wednesday, said in a editorial on redeeming the soul of America: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.  »

While our technology policy experts have expressed deep concern about some issues, they are not without hope. Gradual change is often an uphill battle for marginalized communities, said Devich-Cyril, but a Democratic Senate is providing « fuel to support the journey. »

For AI coverage, send news tips to Khari Johnson and Kyle Wiggers and AI editor Seth Colaner – and be sure to subscribe to the AI ​​Weekly newsletter and tag The Machine.

Thanks for reading,

Khari johnson

Senior AI Writer



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