Dutch Institute for Human Rights: Use of anti-cheating software can be algorithmic discrimination (i.e. racist)

Dutch student Robin Pocornie filed a complaint with Dutch Institute for Human Rights. The surveillance software that her university used, had trouble recognising her as human being because of her skin colour. After a hearing, the Institute has now ruled that Robin has presented enough evidence to assume that she was indeed discriminated against. The ball is now in the court of the VU (her university) to prove that the software treated everybody the same.

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Racist Technology in Action: AI-generated image tools amplify harmful stereotypes

Deep learning models that allow you to make images from simple textual ‘prompts’ have recently become available for the general public. Having been trained on a world full of visual representations of social stereotypes, it comes as no surprise that these tools perpetuate a lot of biased and harmful imagery.

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The devastating consequences of risk based profiling by the Dutch police

Diana Sardjoe writes for Fair Trials about how her sons were profiled by the Amsterdam police on the basis of risk models (a form of predictive policing) called ‘Top600’ (for adults) and ‘Top400’ for people aged 12 to 23). Because of this profiling her sons were “continually monitored and harassed by police.”

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Dutch student files complaint with the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights about the use of racist software by her university

During the pandemic, Dutch student Robin Pocornie had to do her exams with a light pointing straight at her face. Her fellow students who were White didn’t have to do that. Her university’s surveillance software discriminated her, and that is why she has filed a complaint (read the full complaint in Dutch) with the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights.

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Don’t miss this 4-part journalism series on ‘AI Colonialism’

The MIT Technology Review has written a four-part series on how the impact of AI is “repeating the patterns of colonial history.” The Review is careful not to directly compare the current situation with the colonialist capturing of land, extraction of resources, and exploitation of people. Yet, they clearly show that AI does further enrich the wealthy at the tremendous expense of the poor.

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Inventing language to avoid algorithmic censorship

Platforms like Tiktok, Twitch and Instagram use algorithmic filters to automatically block certain posts on the basis of the language they use. The Washington Post shows how this has created ‘algospeak’, a whole new vocabulary. So instead of ‘dead’ users write ‘unalive’, they use ‘SA’ instead of ‘sexual assault’, and write ‘spicy eggplant’ rather than ‘vibrator’.

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Racist Technology in Action: “Race-neutral” traffic cameras have a racially disparate impact

Traffic cameras that are used to automatically hand out speeding tickets don’t look at the colour of the person driving the speeding car. Yet, ProPublica has convincingly shown how cameras that don’t have a racial bias can still have a disparate racial impact.

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Dutch Scientific Council knows: AI is neither neutral nor always rational

AI should be seen as a new system technology, according to The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy, meaning that its impact is large, affects the whole of society, and is hard to predict. In their new Mission AI report, the Council lists five challenges for successfully embedding system technologies in society, leading to ten recommendations for governments.

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Long overdue: Google has improved its camera app to work better for Black people

The following short video by Vox shows how white skin has always been the norm in photography. Black people didn’t start to look good on film until in the 1970s furniture makers complained to Kodak that their film didn’t render the difference between dark and light grained wood, and chocolate companies were upset that you couldn’t see the difference between dark and light chocolate.

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Racist Technology in Action: Predicting future criminals with a bias against Black people

In 2016, ProPublica investigated the fairness of COMPAS, a system used by the courts in the United States to assess the likelihood of a defendant committing another crime. COMPAS uses a risk assessment form to assess this risk of a defendant offending again. Judges are expected to take this risk prediction into account when they decide on sentencing.

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The right to repair our devices is also a social justice issue

Over the past couple of years, devices like our phones have become much harder to repair, and unauthorized repair often leads to a loss of warranty. This is partially driven by our manufactured need for devices that are slimmer and slicker, but is mostly an explicit strategy to make us throw away our old devices and have us buy new ones.

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Rotterdam’s use of algorithms could lead to ethnic profiling

The Rekenkamer Rotterdam (a Court of Audit) looked at how the city of Rotterdam is using predictive algorithms and whether that use could lead to ethical problems. In their report, they describe how the city lacks a proper overview of the algorithms that it is using, how there is no coordination and thus no one takes responsibility when things go wrong, and how sensitive data (like nationality) were not used by one particular fraud detection algorithm, but that so-called proxy variables for ethnicity – like low literacy, which might correlate with ethnicity – were still part of the calculations. According to the Rekenkamer this could lead to unfair treatment, or as we would call it: ethnic profiling.

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The internet doesn’t have ‘universal’ users

Since 2017, Mozilla – the makers of the Firefox browser – have written a yearly report on the health of the internet. This year’s report focuses on labor rights, transparency and racial justice. The piece about racial justice makes an interesting argument about how the sites we see on the first page of a search engine are a reflection of the general popularity of these sites or their ability to pay for a top result. This leads to a ‘mainstream’ bias.

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Google fires AI researcher Timnit Gebru

Google has fired AI researcher and ethicist Timnit Gebru after she wrote an email criticising Google’s policies around diversity while she struggled with her leadership to get a critical paper on AI published. This angered thousands of her former colleagues and academics. They pointed at the unequal treatment that Gebru received as a black woman and they were worried about the integrity of Google’s research.

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