Watermark and generative AI

Access Now urges robust civil society participation in Congressional AI policymaking 

Following the second in a series of fora on artificial intelligence (AI) hosted by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer aimed at informing a draft legislative framework, Access Now remains concerned about the limited civil society participation in the AI policymaking process and urges the Senate to include digital and human rights organizations.

Good policy centers around human rights and democracy, centering existing harms of AI and automated decision-making systems negatively affecting marginalized communities, civil rights, and civil liberties. Congress has the responsibility to take prompt and meaningful action to address these challenges by ensuring future forums allocate more space for human rights organizations at the table. Willmary Escoto, U.S. Policy Counsel at Access Now

Schumer’s first forum, which took place September 13, featured CEOs of the biggest tech and AI companies, including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, and Elon Musk. The second forum, taking place today, October 24, featured venture capitalists from Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins, AI company leaders, academics, and labor representatives, but just a few civil society organizations: the NAACP, AFL- CIO Technology Institute, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

A week prior, on October 17, Access Now joined more than 85 digital rights groups in urging U.S. lawmakers to collaborate closely with civil society among other demands. The letter also underscored that the harms of AI systems are not theoretical but real, and grounded in documented instances of high-risk AI systems causing harm, including:

  • AI systems in workplaces enabling invasive worker surveillance;
  • AI systems aimed at detecting social welfare fraud wrongly labeling innocent and vulnerable citizens as fraudsters; and 
  • AI systems reinforcing and exacerbating violent and discriminatory policing, particularly against people of color.

Over several months, Access Now has pressed both Congress and the administration to focus on the real-world harms caused by AI, particularly in historically marginalized communities, and to center human rights protections, especially regarding privacy and discrimination in all policy text. Access Now also continues to closely follow AI-related proposals. This includes the Artificial Intelligence Advancement Act of 2023, a new bipartisan proposal from four figures central to Senate negotiations – Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Sen. Schumer (D-NY, Sen. Todd Young (R-IN), and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) – which would establish a program to report security vulnerabilities and mandates reports on data sharing, financial sector AI regulation, and AI-enabled military applications.