Their letter echoes a recent call from more than 60 civil society organizations

Lawmakers: “the federal government’s commitment to the AI Bill of Rights would show that fundamental rights will not take a back seat in the AI era”

Letter Text (PDF)

Washington (October 11, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Committee, and Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), along with Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), and Representatives Lori Trahan (MA-03), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Katie Porter (CA-47), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Cori Bush (MO-01), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), and Ilhan Omar (MN-05), today urged President Joe Biden to incorporate the White House Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights into his upcoming artificial intelligence (AI) Executive Order, a crucial step in developing an ethical framework for the federal government’s role in AI. Their letter calls on the Biden administration to make the AI Bill of Rights’ five principles—safe and effective systems, algorithmic discrimination protections, data privacy, notice and explanation, and human alternatives, consideration, and fallback—along with detailed best practices, binding when federal agencies develop, purchase, fund, deploy, or regulate the use of automated systems which could impact people’s freedoms and rights. The lawmakers also urged for these core principles to be implemented as part of any potential national security or law enforcement use of AI.

AI systems create new risks and exacerbate existing biases. In February, a Black woman who was eight months pregnant was wrongfully arrested for robbery and carjacking because of false facial recognition. Algorithms have also falsely flagged people for financial fraud. Studies have reported that credit scoring algorithms are less accurate for low-income and minority borrowers, while hiring algorithms can perpetuate gender biases. The principles and practices in the AI Bill of Rights provide a crucial foundation to combat many of these harms in the near future.

In their letter to President Biden, the lawmakers wrote, “By turning the AI Bill of Rights from a non-binding statement of principles into federal policy, your Administration would send a clear message to both private actors and federal regulators: AI systems must be developed with guardrails. Doing so would also strengthen your Administration’s efforts to advance racial equity and support underserved communities, building on important work from previous executive orders.”

The lawmakers continued, “As a substantial purchaser, user, and regulator of AI tools, as well as a significant funder of state-level programs, the federal government’s commitment to the AI Bill of Rights would show that fundamental rights will not take a back seat in the AI era. Finally, implementing these principles will not only protect communities harmed by these technologies, it will also help inform ongoing policy conversations in Congress and show clear leadership on the global stage.”

Last month, Senator Markey wrote a letter to Meta Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg urging him to pause the company’s plan to integrate AI chatbots into its social media platforms to attract and retain younger users. During the same month, Senator Markey and Representative Jayapal led six of their colleagues in a letter demanding answers from leading U.S. companies developing and deploying AI—Google, OpenAI, Anthropic, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Inflection AI, Scale AI, and IBM—on using underpaid and overworked data workers who receive no benefits but keep their companies’ AI products online. In July, Senator Markey and Representative Doris Matsui (CA-07) reintroduced their Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act to ban Big Tech from using black-box algorithms that perpetuate discrimination, inequality, and racism. During that same month, Senator Markey celebrated his Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0), which he introduced with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.), advancing through the Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Committee without any opposition. In June, he and Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.) wrote to U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, head of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), requesting GAO conduct a detailed technology assessment of the potential harms of generative AI and how to mitigate them. In March, Senators Markey and Merkley, along with Representative Jayapal, led their colleagues in reintroducing the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to prevent the government from using facial recognition and other biometric technologies, which pose significant privacy and civil liberties issues and disproportionately harm marginalized communities.