Advancing Equity in Artificial Intelligence: A Glimpse into the Justice Department’s Interagency Convening

Summary

1. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division hosted its third interagency convening to foster AI and civil rights coordination.

2. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke highlighted the commitment of nine cabinet-level federal agencies to enforce civil rights laws in AI.

3. Agencies discussed safeguarding civil rights through enforcement, policy initiatives, rulemaking, and education.

4. Key attendees included high-ranking officials from the EEOC, HHS, DHS, and HUD, among others.

5. Participants pledged continued collaboration to protect the public from potential harms of AI and advanced technologies.

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I had the opportunity to sit down with Sarah Thompson, a senior policy advisor who attended the Justice Department’s latest Interagency Convening on Advancing Equity in Artificial Intelligence. Sarah’s insights offered a vivid recounting of the event, which proved to be an illuminating experience for anyone concerned about the intersection of technology and civil rights.

“As I walked into the room, there was a palpable sense of urgency and commitment,” Sarah began. “You could tell that everyone present understood the gravity of our task – to ensure that as AI technology advances, it does so in a manner that is equitable and just.”

The convening marked the third such event hosted by the Civil Rights Division following President Biden’s Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence (EO 14110). The Executive Order tasks the Civil Rights Division with coordinating federal agencies to prevent and address unlawful discrimination that may result from AI use while preserving its potential benefits.

“Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke’s opening remarks set the tone for the day,” Sarah recounted. “She emphasized the recent announcement that nine cabinet-level federal agencies have joined the pledge to enforce civil rights laws in AI. This is not just about talking the talk; these agencies are committed to taking concrete actions.”

The agencies present discussed their efforts to safeguard civil rights through various means, including robust enforcement, policy initiatives, rulemaking, and ongoing education and outreach. “One of the key accomplishments we’re proud of,” Sarah noted, “is completing all 180-day actions in EO 14110 on schedule. This shows our dedication to staying on top of this rapidly evolving field.”

The list of attendees read like a who’s who of civil rights leadership, including Chair Charlotte Burrows of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Director Melanie Fontes Rainer of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia of the Department of Homeland Security, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Diane Shelley of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Having such high-ranking officials in the room was incredibly impactful,” Sarah shared. “It signaled that this is a priority across multiple sectors of the government. We all pledged to continue our collaboration to protect the American public from any harm that might result from the increased use and reliance on AI, algorithms, and other advanced technologies.”

The convening wasn’t just about internal coordination; there was also a strong focus on external stakeholder engagement. “We agreed to partner on engaging with external stakeholders around our collective efforts to advance equity and civil rights in AI,” Sarah explained. “This means not only working within our agencies but also collaborating with community organizations, academia, and industry leaders to ensure a more inclusive approach.”

As the day progressed, attendees exchanged ideas and strategies for achieving their shared goals. “It was inspiring to see the level of detail and thought that each agency brought to the table,” Sarah said. “From policy initiatives to rulemaking, each discussion underscored our collective mission to safeguard civil rights in this new technological era.”

Reflecting on the event, Sarah was optimistic yet realistic about the road ahead. “We have a lot of work to do,” she admitted, “but days like today remind me why this work is so crucial. We’re not just shaping policies; we’re shaping the future of AI in a way that is inclusive and just.”

As our conversation drew to a close, Sarah emphasized the importance of continued vigilance and collaboration. “The potential benefits of AI are immense, but so are the risks if we’re not careful. It’s our responsibility to ensure that these technologies serve everyone fairly and equitably.”

Through Sarah’s eyes, it was clear that the Justice Department’s Interagency Convening was a significant step toward achieving these goals. The commitment and collaboration demonstrated by federal agencies offer hope that as AI technologies continue to evolve, they will do so within a framework that upholds the civil rights of all Americans.

Mohammed Ahmed

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