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US government pitches civil rights on AI platforms

A number of US government agencies are making the case to manage AI systems in a way that will protect civil rights

A handful of US government agencies say they want to make sure AI platforms stay on the right side of civil rights laws.

The collection of agencies includes the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission all said that, as AI platforms are integrated into businesses, their operators need to make sure civil rights laws are being followed.

The goal is not to award any civil rights to the AIs themselves, but rather prevent companies from training and enforcing any policies that might see the rights of customers or employees being infringed upon.

"As social media platforms, banks, landlords, employers and other businesses choose to rely on artificial intelligence, algorithms and automated systems to conduct business, we stand ready to hold accountable those entities that fail to address the unfair and discriminatory outcomes that may result," said Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

"We are mounting a whole-of-government approach to enforcing civil rights and related laws when it comes to automated systems, including AI."

While the DOJ had been operating its own civil rights program since 2023, this week's announcement brings a number of additional agencies into the fold and expands the initiative.

The hope is that, with more agencies on board, the government will be better equipped to spot and correct potential rights violations.

The agreement also follows an executive order from President Biden directing Federal agencies to adopt responsible and ethical policies around their use of AI platforms.

"During the convening, agency representatives discussed strategies to enhance enforcement, coordination, external engagement and public awareness about AI's potential discriminatory uses and effects," the DOJ said of the meeting.

"Participants also gave updates on agency obligations under the Executive Order, including guidance, best practices and other resources, some of which may be released as early as the end of April."