Don’t let industry write the rules for AI

Technology companies are running a campaign to bend research and regulation for their benefit. Society must fight back, says Yochai Benkler.

Inside an algorithmic black box, societal biases are rendered invisible and unaccountable. When designed for profit-making alone, algorithms necessarily diverge from the public interest — information asymmetries, bargaining power and externalities pervade these markets. For example, Facebook and YouTube profit from people staying on their sites and by offering advertisers technology to deliver precisely targeted messages. That could turn out to be illegal or dangerous. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development has charged Facebook with enabling discrimination in housing adverts (correlates of race and religion could be used to affect who sees a listing). YouTube’s recommendation algorithm has been implicated in stoking anti-vaccine conspiracies. I see these sorts of service as the emissions of high-tech industry: they bring profits, but the costs are borne by society.


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