Senator Edward J. Markey, D-MA and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, CA-06 today proposed the Algorithmic Justice and Online Transparency Act, a bill that would “prohibit the discriminatory use of personal information by online platforms in any algorithmic process” and “require transparency in the use of algorithmic processes and content moderation”.
“It is time to open up Big Tech’s hood, enact strict prohibitions on harmful algorithms, and prioritize justice for communities who have long been discriminated against as we work toward platform accountability,” said Senator Markey said in a press release.
Key features of the bill include:
- Creates an inter-agency task force to examine discriminatory algorithmic practices including representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); the Departments of Education, Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; the Federal Communications Commission; the Federal Elections Commission; and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, chaired by representatives from the Department of Justice and the FTC.
- Introduces a requirement for online platforms to provide a notice to users about the collection of personal information, how that information is employed in algorithmic processes, and the method algorithms utilize prioritize or weight certain information in the recommendation of content to a user.
- Creates a mechanism for the FTC to obtain a record of these practices and assessments.
- Requires reporting on content moderation decisions, including their number and rationale, demographic data associated with the content moderation decision and the manner in which the decision was handled- whether by automated or human intervention, and information on government requests for interventions.
Racial justice and consumer advocate groups greeted the announcement with enthusiasm.
“Free Press Action welcomes the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act, and the bill’s focus on preventing discriminatory algorithmic processes that disproportionately impact communities of color,” said Carmen Scurato, Senior Policy Counsel at Free Press Action, the lobbying arm of the media advocacy organization Free Press. “The bill’s transparency requirements are a necessary step to holding platforms accountable for abusive data practices that perpetuate disparate outcomes.
“Big Tech’s problematic track record in failing to protect civil rights proves that we need swift legislation to protect Black people online,” said Arisha Hatch, Vice President and Chief of Campaigns at Color Of Change, an advocacy organization focused on racial justice.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.