Sen. Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., introduced legislation on May 27 that would attempt to prevent the use of discriminatory online algorithms, and create a Federal inter-agency task force to investigate the use of algorithm-driven processes.

The Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act of 2021 would prohibit online algorithms that discriminate “on the basis of race, age, gender, ability, and other protected characteristics.” It also would establish standards to ensure algorithms are safe and effective.

“As we work to eliminate injustice in our society, we cannot ignore the online ecosystem,” Sen. Markey said in a press release. “Biased artificial intelligence systems have become embedded in the fabric of our digital society and they must be rooted out. I am proud to partner with Congresswoman Matsui on the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act and I urge my colleagues in Congress to join this effort.”

The inter-agency task force to investigate the harmful processes would be comprise of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Department of Education, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Commerce, and Department of Justice.

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The legislation would require online platforms to maintain detailed records of their algorithmic processes for the FTC to review. Additionally, platforms would need to describe their processes to users in plain language and publish detailed annual public reports.

“As we work for justice and reform, it is crucial that we remain vigilant by demanding transparency from 21st century platforms about the algorithms that shape our online interactions,” Rep. Matsui said. “For far too many Americans, long-held biases and systemic injustices contained within certain algorithms are perpetuating inequalities and barriers to access. The Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act is an essential roadmap for digital justice to move us forward on the path to online equity and stop these discriminatory practices.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.