Today I discovered the Online Civil Rights Act, model legislation published just last month under the tagline, “The tools of the future are being used to lock us into the mistakes of the past.”

This fascinating and timely text is freely available in PDF form from the above link and was released by the Lawyers’​ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, whose own tagline is “Making The Promises of Democracy Real.” That seemed like an obvious group to look into and support, so I was pleased when I found that they just shared a fully-prepared template for the Online Civil Rights Act.

Being a student of the law (if not a law-school student), I had to download my own copy and give it a once-over. My initial reading revealed a number of excellent points that I want to highlight here, all of which lend credibility to the authors and hope to us all.

Here are some of the high points that I noticed in my first pass through. Commentary on these is limited, as the full text is 31 pages including covers, but anyone who wants to seek out the sections I mention can do so with an easy text search if you want to forgo a full reading yourself.

  • the definitions & exclusions seem to be relevant, clear, and thorough
  • explanations of what is Safe, under Duty of Care
  • extensive use of the term “reasonable” in the text, which allows smoother extrapolation from the law in future cases where it may not immediately be clear that it applies
    • practically, this reduces the likelihood of absurd loopholes allowing violations
    • ethically, we should all be so sensible as to want reasonable laws in every venue
  • Title III, c, 2, C contains a terrific use case for opt-ins for the express purpose of helping R&D
  • requirements surrounding mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcy, and similar transactions
  • ongoing training for employees regarding protection of (anyone’s) personal data to which they have access
  • Section 303, e: Required and Permissive Exceptions, particularly on how exercise of one’s rights may not interfere with another’s rights under the Act, and in reasonable legal and fiscal protection of related rights of developers/deployers who are otherwise exercising their duty of care under the Act
  • log of material changes to disclosures, publicly and easily available, for the past 10 years, though limited to such changes made after this Act was enacted
    • this allows anyone to verify the public record of such changes for both legal cases and individual tracking of one’s requests, and such is an invaluable tool to ensure compliance under the Act
  • reasonable requirements of languages and accessibility
  • provision of a five-year period of public education regarding new labeling requirements and how to recognize and understand them
    • also, the Uniform Labeling Research Study requirements
  • inapplicability of arbitration agreements or joint action waivers to any dispute arising under the Act
    • meaning: no immunity of a violating company or person due to prior terms and conditions agreed upon, no matter how restrictive those may have been
  • priority given to the FTC by US Digital Service algorithm auditors, ensuring that the enforcement practices under this Act will be granted the strongest ability to keep up with new requests and complaints from the outset

 

Read more about this roadmap for Congress at the link above. We need intelligent safeguards around new generative-AI products the same as we do around anything else on the market. This looks like an excellent step toward responsible use of these powerful new tools, for and by everyone involved.

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