Newswire: Biden applauded for prioritizing civil rights amidst growing Artificial Intelligence Technology

By Hazel Trice Edney

( – President Joe Biden is receiving wide applause among Black leadership for his executive order that attempts to assure that artificial intelligence (AI) remains within boundaries that respect civil rights and adhere to principles of democracy. But the question remains whether the executive order goes far enough to protect Black people – particular from abusive law enforcement.
“We believe in the potential for AI to be a powerful tool to help advance our vision of opportunity and prosperity for Black and Brown people. But we cannot let the tools of the future reinforce the mistakes of the past. Guardrails must be implemented now to ensure that this emerging technology centers equity at every step of development and implementation,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCR), in a statement issued following Biden’s signing of the executive order. “This executive order is a critical step to help guard against algorithmic bias and discrimination.  It can be the beginning of a pathway to a future where AI empowers instead of oppresses.”
Hewitt says the executive order prepares the federal government “to prevent and address bias and discrimination in new technologies; but more action is needed to fully address harmful AI used by law enforcement.”
Tech experts have pointed out that abusive AI tactics have been racially biased, especially against Black people.
An article titled, “Racial Discrimination in Face Recognition Technology,” written by Harvard University biotech consultant, Alex Najibi, points out that face recognition technology, a form of AI often used by police departments and in airport screening, as well as employment and housing decisions, has been known to involve “significant racial bias, particularly against Black Americans.”
Najibi adds, “Even if accurate, face recognition empowers a law enforcement system with a long history of racist and anti-activist surveillance and can widen pre-existing inequalities.”
He writes that “despite widespread adoption, face recognition was recently banned for use by police and local agencies in several cities, including Boston and San Francisco” because face recognition “is the least accurate” of all recognition technologies such as fingerprinting.
While applauding the Administration on its initial steps to direct agencies to determine how AI is used in criminal justice, the LCCR says Biden’s executive order does not go far enough to actually address “harmful uses of AI by law enforcement agencies, such as the discriminatory use of facial recognition technologies.”
President Barack Obama, who also released a statement, pointed out that he asked his staff seven years ago to study “how artificial intelligence could play a growing role in the future of the United States.”
He pointed out additional problems that could occur, including national security threats.
“We don’t want anyone with an internet connection to be able to create a new strain of smallpox, access nuclear codes, or attack our critical infrastructure. And we have to make sure this technology doesn’t fall into the hands of people who want to use it to turbocharge things like cybercrime and fraud,” Obama states.
He credited organizations such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn to the Alignment Research Center for “tackling these questions, and making sure more people feel like their concerns are being heard and addressed.”
The Leadership Conference, led by Maya Wiley, president, wrote a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on August 4, urging the Administration to focus Biden’s executive order on “protecting the American public from the current and potential harms of this technology— including threats to people’s rights, civil liberties, opportunities, jobs, economic well-being, and access to critical resources and services.” That letter was co-signed by LCCR, the NAACP, and the Center for American Progress among others.
The Executive Order directs the following requirements for organizations using AI:
Require that developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government. 
Develop standards, tools, and tests to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy. 
Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening.
Protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content.
Establish an advanced cybersecurity program to develop AI tools to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical software.
Order the development of a National Security Memorandum that directs further actions on AI and security.
The focus of the executive order is primarily to assure a fair and safe future while using AI, Biden says. But the LCCR insists the order needs more work and vows to continue working with the Administration to that end.
Hewitt concluded, “To make that future a reality, civil rights-focused protections must apply to every aspect of our lives touched by AI technology, including the harmful use of AI by law enforcement. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration on how we can address the full scope of this challenge and fully leverage the opportunity before us.” 

Newswire : NAACP issues travel advisory warning Black people against traveling to Florida

 Black family enjoying one of Florida’s beaches

By: Sharelle Burt, Black Enterprise

The NAACP is warning Black people to stay away from the Sunshine State.
CNN reports the historic advocacy group released a statement issuing a travel advisory in response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ deliberate attempt to erase African American history and DEI initiatives in schools.

“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” the NAACP said. “Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color.”
The NAACP, long an advocate for Black Americans, joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a Latino civil rights organization, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group, in issuing travel advisories for the Sunshine State, where tourism is one of the state’s largest job sectors.
The advisory has been in the works for months as the Hillsborough County Chapter of the organization met with other NAACP members back in March and agreed to work with the national office on this advisory.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson says DeSantis’ antics conflict with the ideals that the group was founded upon. “Let me be clear–failing to teach an accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face is a disservice to students and a dereliction of duty to all,” Johnson said.
Since winning the governor seat, the controversial Republican politician has focused heavily on social issues. Last year, the state made headlines after DeSantis signed the “Stop WOKE Act” into legislation, putting restrictions on how race and gender are discussed in classrooms, NBC News reported.

Under his administration, several areas of “concern” have been removal including Black Queer Studies, Movement for Black Lives, Black Feminist Literary Thought, The Reparations Movement and Black Struggle in the 21st Century. Books by Bell Hooks, Angela Davis and other Black authors have also been banned.

SOS holds Juneteenth march across the bridge in Selma

Some of the speakers at the rally in Voting Rights Memorial Park after march across the bridge
Marchers on Juneteenth, cross the Pettus Bridge, asking that its name be changed

The Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy, the NAACP, ANSC, and other organizations sponsored a Juneteenth celebration in Selma, Alabama which culminated in a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and rally in the Voting Rights Memorial Park at the foot of the bridge on the Eastern side.
The June 19 – Juneteenth celebration honors the end of slavery in the United States when the Union Army reached Galveston, Texas in 1865, four months after the Confederate surrender in Virginia. Union forces brought the news that enslaved Black people were free under the Emancipation Proclamation.
The SOS march across the bridge had several purposes including calling for a change in the name of the Pettus Bridge because it is named for a Confederate general and grand dragon of the Klu Klux Klan.
Other purposes of the march were to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, for criminal justice reform to end police brutality; Expansion of Medicaid in Alabama and an end to healthcare disparities in the treatment of Black and other people of color, especially during the coronavirus pandemic; and support for the ‘Vote or Die Campaign’ to increase voter participation and end voter suppression.
The SOS march supported the demand to change the name of the bridge from Edmund Pettus to the ‘Freedom Bridge’. “We are aware that there is a national petition drive to rename the bridge for Congressman John Lewis, who was beaten on the bridge on March 7, 1965 – Bloody Sunday. We feel that it should not be re-named for one person, since there were so many leaders and grassroots foot-soldiers involved over many decades, in a movement for voting rights. It would be better to have a generic name,” said Hank Sanders, SOS Steering Committee member and local leader.
Earlier in the week on Monday night, June 15, 2020, SOS supported a march and rally in Tuskegee to call for the removal of the Confederate statue in the center of town. Former Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee said, “We have been trying for more than thirty years to remove this statue and vestige of white supremacy from the town.”
At the end of the rally, the Selma chapter of SOS distributed Afrocentric and Black History books to children. This was to kickoff of a special reading program that ultimately will lead to the presentation of scholarships to youth participating in the reading program.