White House AI Executive Order Is Promising First Step, Comprehensive Legislation Is Still Needed

White House AI Executive Order Is Promising First Step, Comprehensive Legislation Is Still Needed

WASHINGTON — Maya Wiley, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement about the White House Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence (AI):

“Artificial Intelligence is here and developing at gale force speed compared to the glacial pace of government oversight. AI has promise for improving lives and society, but that promise is not an inevitability. It has already proven the real pain, unchecked, that it can cause real people — by those who intend good, as well as those who intend harm. From race and gender discrimination to disinformation, it requires meaningful governance and oversight to ensure society is bettered and not embattled by AI’s biases.

“The White House Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence is an important next step to get federal agencies better prepared to use its decision-making power in a way that increases protections, rather than letting AI run unchecked. We are gratified that the administration took seriously the concerns of the civil rights community.

“The federal government is one of the largest consumers of artificial intelligence products, tools, and services. The White House has already adopted the AI Bill of Rights, an important set of widely shared guiding principles supported by technologists and the civil rights community alike. Today’s executive order is the next strategic step to animate those principles inside the federal government. Impacts on and protections for vulnerable groups — especially communities of color, women, people with disabilities, older adults, and working people — who are affected by the widespread use of AI are given real consideration in the direction it sets for federal agencies.

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“This executive order is a real step forward, but we must not allow it to be the only step. We still need Congress to consider legislation that will regulate AI and ensure that innovation makes us more fair, just, and prosperous, rather than surveilled, silenced, and stereotyped.

“We need comprehensive civil rights legislation that takes into account unintentional, group based harms, ensures privacy, enables the public to have meaningful ways to see and know that AI is safe for use, and ensures all consumers have real protections.

“As the executive order is implemented and Congress debates action, we at The Leadership Conference and at The Leadership Conference Education Fund’s Center for Civil Rights and Technology will be convening, educating, and collaborating with our coalition, academics, and allies in the technology industry to ensure that ‘we the people’ remain the authors of our future and not the subjects of the machine.”

Dr. Alondra Nelson, senior advisor to the president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, remarked:

“Having led the development of the White House’s AI Bill of Rights, and now serving as a senior advisor to Maya and the historic Leadership Conference, I applaud President Biden’s executive order and its careful attention to preserving our rights and protecting our communities from AI risks and harms. We have more work to do in coalition and with Congress to make the AI Bill of Rights the architecture for federal regulation and oversight of AI. This executive order is a meaningful step toward that future.”

Last month, The Leadership Conference Education Fund announced the launch of the Center for Civil Rights and Technology to serve as a hub for information, research, and collaboration that breaks down silos and advances understanding of opportunities and challenges from all sides of the discussion of AI. Earlier this year, The Leadership Conference sent a letter to the White House calling for civil rights measures in the AI executive order.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights is a coalition charged by its diverse membership of more than 240 national organizations to promote and protect the rights of all persons in the United States. The Leadership Conference works toward an America as good as its ideals. For more information on The Leadership Conference and its member organizations, visit www.civilrights.org

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