The Washington Post | 25 May 2023
Civil rights groups warn trade talks may hurt efforts to counter discriminatory algorithms
A coalition of civil rights and consumer protection groups warned in a letter to President Biden Tuesday that ongoing trade talks risk eroding efforts to mitigate algorithmic discrimination.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Public Citizen and a dozen other groups wrote that certain digital trade provisions considered in a proposed Indo-Pacific Economic Framework would stall government efforts to ensure algorithms behave fairly when making decisions about job access, health care, housing, lending and other areas.
The groups argue one potential provision would allow tech companies to keep their source code and algorithms secret, arguing that it could “thwart” assessments that test algorithms for racial biases or legal violations. Lawmakers have expressed related concerns about the tech industry’s influence in the trade talks, voicing concern that AI, privacy and competition regulations may be weakened by tech groups arguing they infringe on trade policies.
The White House did not return a request for comment. U.S. Trade Representative spokesman Sam Michel said in a statement, “Throughout the development of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, USTR officials have met with a broad range of stakeholders to solicit input and ensure that diverse perspectives are heard from – not just those that can afford Washington lobbyists."