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AI’s Next Chapter: The Executive Order & Academia’s Role in the Future of AI

Defending Democracy

November, 2023

Author:  Margaret Hu is Taylor Reveley Research Professor and Professor of Law and and Director of the Digital Democracy Lab at William & Mary Law School. Her research focuses on the intersection of civil rights, national security, cybersurveillance, and AI. She is author of several notable works, including Biometric Cyberintelligence and the Posse Comitatus Act, Algorithmic Jim Crow, and Biometrics and an AI Bill of Rights.

Author: Alberto Rodriguez-Alvarez is Senior Program Manager for Public Interest Technology at New America, where he manages internal capacity-building and external partnership development. His PIT interests include technology & policy, public innovation and digital government.

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About a year after “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights: Making Automated Systems Work for the American People” was released by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Biden administration rolled out an executive order on the safe, secure, and trustworthy development and use of artificial intelligence. The initiative is a wide-ranging framework for shielding consumers, workers, communities, and national security from potential AI-induced hazards. The executive order shows promise and a willingness by the federal government to take a role in protecting human and civil rights in the age of AI. But there is still a lot of work ahead, and academia has a key role to play.

What Does the Executive Order Say?


The executive order has a profound and widespread impact across the federal government and sets in motion a series of targeted actions and responsibilities. At the forefront is the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which is one of the federal agencies tackling the complex issue of algorithmic bias. This involves investigating instances where AI systems perpetuate or amplify bias based on race, color, gender, or other protected status in an effort to apply current anti-discrimination laws to new forms of civil rights harm. The Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section, for example, works closely with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the enforcement of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits unlawful discrimination in employment practices, an ever more critical role as AI becomes increasingly integrated into recruitment and hiring processes.

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