Interventions to mitigate the racially discriminatory impacts of emerging tech including AI

Joint Civil Society Statement: “As widespread recent protests have highlighted, racial inequality remains an urgent and devastating issue around the world, and this is as true in the context of technology as it is everywhere else. In fact, it may be more so, as algorithmic technologies based on big data are deployed at previously unimaginable scale, reproducing the discriminatory systems that build and govern them.

The undersigned organizations welcome the publication of the report “Racial discrimination and emerging digital technologies: a human rights analysis,” by Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, E. Tendayi Achiume, and wish to underscore the importance and timeliness of a number of the recommendations made therein:

  1. Technologies that have had or will have significant racially discriminatory impacts should be banned outright.
    While incremental regulatory approaches may be appropriate in some contexts, where a technology is demonstrably likely to cause racially discriminatory harm, it should not be deployed until that harm can be prevented. Moreover, certain technologies may always have disparate racial impacts, no matter how much their accuracy can be improved. In the present moment, racially discriminatory technologies include facial and affect recognition technology and so-called predictive analytics. We support Special Rapporteur Achiume’s call for mandatory human rights impact assessments as a prerequisite for the adoption of new technologies. We also believe that where such assessments reveal that a technology has a high likelihood of deleterious racially disparate impacts, states should prevent its use through a ban or moratorium. We join the Special Rapporteur in welcoming recent municipal bans, for example, on the use of facial recognition technology, and encourage national governments to adopt similar policies.  Correspondingly, we reiterate our support for states’ imposition of an immediate moratorium on the trade and use of privately developed surveillance tools until such time as states enact appropriate safeguards, and congratulate Special Rapporteur Achiume on joining that call.
  2. Gender mainstreaming and representation along racial, national and other intersecting identities requires radical improvement at all levels of the tech sector.
  3. Technologists cannot solve political, social, and economic problems without the input of domain experts and those personally impacted.
  4. Access to technology is as urgent an issue of racial discrimination as inequity in the design of technologies themselves.
  5. Representative and disaggregated data is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for racial equity in emerging digital technologies, but it must be collected and managed equitably as well.
  6. States as well as corporations must provide remedies for racial discrimination, including reparations.… (More)”.