WASHINGTON, DC - In the debate over if America’s largest tech companies need to be better regulated, Democrats are pushing a new bill that would force the tech giants to check their algorithms for bias.
“People of color, women and older Americans have all been notably absent from the tech workforce. Harsher sentences for minorities. Automatic soap dispensers sometimes fail to recognize the hands of African Americans and Latinos, imagine that,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced the Algorithmic Accountability Act.
It would primarily apply to companies that make over $50 million dollars a year, forcing them to closely evaluate their algorithms and to address issues as they arise.
“From the use of artificial intelligence software more likely to flag Black defendants as future criminals, Asian Americans being charged higher prices for online test prep, Amazon’s recruiting tool penalizing resumes that included the word women’s and Facebook’s real name policy that discriminates against Native American names and transgender people,” Mark Luckie, a former Facebook employee outlined at a recent committee hearing.
Howard University’s Director for Data Science and Cyber Security says though algorithms are computer generated, there’s a reason why bias is showing up.
“If you don’t test on the right sample during the testing period or training phase, then you will have some bias which will not represent the entire population. There should be some sort of third party who could oversee what is happening in the algorithm,” said Rawat.
The bill has no Republican co-sponsors. Republicans have been more focused on what they view as bias against conservatives and right-leaning content in Google searches but there are some Republicans that acknowledge the tech industry has a diversity problem.
“How do we get a more diverse STEM populous…because the other side is if it doesn’t reflect that, that means they are just being biased in who they hire,” said Rep. Brett Guthrie of Bowling Green, Kentucky.