Biden and AI robot face off

Would Biden's Proposed AI 'Bill of Rights' Be Effective—Or Just More Virtue Signaling?

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

courtesy of Andria Moore

Last week, the Biden administration released a blueprint for a proposed Artificial Intelligence Bill of Rights. The bill included guidance on how to protect consumers’ data, how to limit discrimination by algorithms and human alternatives to AI use.

But despite its whopping 73 pages, the bill is little more than virtue signaling from an administration keen on cracking down on big tech, according to many in Los Angeles’ AI community.


“Calling it a ‘bill of rights’ is grandiose,” said Fred Morstatter, a computer scientist at USC’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI). “It lacks the ability to make real change from a legal perspective; it’s not a law.” Nonetheless, Morstatter appreciates that the Biden administration is shining a light on issues of “algorithmic bias, biased decision making and fairness,” though he also noted that IBM proposed a similar set of rules a year ago.

Here are a few key takeaways from industries the 73-page proposal targets most.

Previous Legislation Is More Effective

Several states are already debating similar initiatives to regulate AI, but few are close to the finish line.

A Massachusetts bill introduced last July would require companies making over $50 million to undergo impartial “accountability and bias prevention” audits. Vermont proposed a bill last March that would create an advisory group to look for bias in state-used AI software. In Washington state, legislators are considering the People’s Privacy Act, which if passed would limit private firms’ use of people’s data.

Everyone dot.LA spoke with, however, asserts that the most powerful bill regulating AI is a New York City law set to go into effect in January. Unlike the Biden proposal, the NYC bill stipulates that companies found in violation are susceptible to hefty fines. Under this new law, NYC companies would be banned from or fined for using automated hiring platforms if they can’t prove in a yearly independent audit that their AI models are anti-biased and won’t discriminate against job searchers based on gender or race. Though it’s not clearly defined what the audit would entail, the law says an impartial judge will look for “disparate impact” on minorities, a phrase experts are trying to suss out.

“It is high time for regulating high tech, though it is an anathema to business interests,” Kristina Lerman, principal scientist at USC’s ISI, told dot.LA. “When we have technology that has life and death impacts on others, we have to take responsibility for it.”

It Does Little To Fix Issues with AI Workplace Hiring Models

Recent history is littered with examples of AI decision-making gone wrong.

Two years ago in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, a prison used AI to predict recidivism rates.

“They found that it was racist against Black people,” said Shirin Nikaein, co-founder and CEO of Upful.ai, a startup developing an AI coaching tool to make performance reviews less biased. She noted the prison’s AI model failed to account for all the biases in society writ large that contributed to an outsized portion of Black Americans being arrested or incarcerated – and added, “of course, AI is going to discriminate, it's going to amplify the biases that already existed.”

One possible solution to this issue, according to Nikaein, is to give the AI as diverse a dataset as possible, or to have an external audit of the data before it's given to the AI to check for bias. Though, she also admitted this process is typically slower “and it does take more human intervention.”

The White House proposal does recommend AI data sets also be independently audited. Its list of people who should be able to view detailed audit results includes journalists, researchers and inspectors general. Though again, without outlining what the fines for potential violations for misusing AI tools might look like, the Biden proposal is largely ineffective in preventing bias.

It Could Stifle Innovation

Eli Ben-Joseph, co-founder and CEO of Culver City-based Regard, a AI-driven software tool for healthcare workers, said physicians already have to sign off on any AI-determined diagnosis before they’re given to a patient. But Ben-Joseph wants to remove the human training wheels and allow people to use the AI to diagnose themselves.

Which is why he’s concerned the recommendations could turn into over-regulation if companies have to wait for government approval to go to market. Currently, Regard doesn’t need FDA approval to operate because it's not a black-box algorithm since users can see how it makes a diagnosis.

“Overall, a lot of the things [the White House] wrote about are things that I think are concerns that very much should be monitored and addressed by technology,” said Ben-Joseph. “The one hesitation I had, which is I think very standard when you have a government starting to meddle with things, is how much will it stifle innovation?”

That said, two years ago, a team of researchers from the University of California Berkeley’s School of Public Health found a “widely used” hospital AI was racist. To sum it up, the AI determined that Black patients who were sicker than white patients were at the same level of risk. This ended up cutting the number of Black patients who were identified as needing extra care by 50%, and overall contributed to them getting subpar treatment.

This is all to say that Biden’s proposal provides limited guidance on specific actions that healthcare companies should take to avoid such biased determinations.

Lerman said she doesn’t expect there to be much change for both big tech and startups working with AI, “until there is some bite in the regulation… new laws that will allow prosecution of companies who violate the laws.”

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Cadence

Derek Jeter’s Sports Trading Card Company Brings in $10M

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

sports trading cards
Arena Club /Andria Moore

Sports trading card platform Arena Club has raised $10 million in Series A funding.

Co-founded by CEO Brian Lee and Hall of Fame Yankees player Derek Jeter, Arena Club launched its digital showroom in September. Through the platform, sports fans can buy, sell, trade and display their card collections. Using computer vision and machine learning, Arena Club allows fans to grade and authenticate their cards, which can be stored in the company’s vault or delivered in protective “slabs.” Arena Club intends to use the new cash to expand these functions and scale its operations.

The new funding brings Arena Club’s total amount raised to $20 million. M13, defy.vc, Lightspeed Ventures, Elysian Park Ventures and BAM Ventures contributed to the round.

“Our team is thankful for the group of investors—led by M13, who see the bright future of the trading card hobby and our platform,” Lee said in a statement. “I have long admired M13 and the value they bring to early-stage startups.”

M13’s co-founder Courtney Reum, who formed the early-stage consumer technology venture firm in 2016 alongside his brother Carter Reum, will join Arena Club’s board. Reum has been eyeing the trading card space since 2020 when he began investing in what was once just a childhood hobby.

The sports trading card market surged in 2020 as fans turned to the hobby after the pandemic brought live events to a standstill. Since then, prices have come down, though demand remains high. And investors are still betting on trading card companies, with companies like Collectors bringing in $100 million earlier this year. Fanatics, which sells athletic collectibles and trading cards, reached a $31 billion valuation after raising $700 million earlier this week. On the blockchain, Tom Brady’s NFT company Autograph lets athletes sell digital collectibles directly to fans.

As for Arena Club, the company is looking to cement itself as a digital card show.

“Providing users with a digital card show allows us to use our first-class technology to give collectors from all over the world the luxury of being able to get the full trading card show experience at their fingertips,” Jeter said in a statement.

Is Airbnb’s New Push To Expand Short-Term Rentals Enough for Hosts To Combat LA’s City Policy?

Amrita Khalid
Amrita Khalid is a tech journalist based in Los Angeles, and has written for Quartz, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Inc. Magazine and number of other publications. She got her start in Washington, D.C., covering Congress for CQ-Roll Call. You can send tips or pitches to amrita@dot.la or reach out to her on Twitter at @askhalid.
LA house

L.A.’s lax enforcement of Airbnbs has led to an surge of illegal short-term rentals — even four years after the city passed a regulation to crack down on such practices. But what if hosts lived in a building that welcomed Airbnb guests and short-term rentals?

That’s the idea behind Airbnb’s new push to expand short-term rental offerings. The company is partnering with a number of corporate landlords that agreed to offer “Airbnb-friendly” apartment buildings, reported The Wall Street Journal last week. According to the report, the new service will feature more than 175 buildings managed by Equity Residential, Greystar Real Estate Partners LLC and 10 other companies that have agreed to clear more than 175 properties nationwide for short-term rentals.

But prospective hosts in Los Angeles who decide to rent apartments from Airbnb’s list of more than a dozen “friendly” buildings in the city likely won’t earn enough to break even due to a combination of high rents, taxes and city restrictions on short-term rentals. Rents on one-bedroom apartments in most of the partnered buildings listed soared well over $3,000 a month. Only a few studios were available under the $2,000 price range. If a host were to rent a one bedroom apartment with a monthly rent of $2,635 (which amounts to $31,656 annually), they would have to charge well over the $194 average price per night for Los Angeles (which amounts to $23,280 per year) according to analytics platform AllTheRooms.

Either way, residents who rent one of these Airbnb friendly apartments still have to apply for a permit through the City of Los Angeles in order to host on Airbnb.

“[..Airbnb-friendly buildings] seems like a good initiative. However, from a quick look, it seems that given the rent, Airbnb revenue wouldn’t be enough to cover all expenses if the host follows the city’s policy,” says Davide Proserpio, assistant professor of marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business.

In addition, since L.A.’s 120-day cap on short-term rentals still applies to the buildings on Airbnb’s listing platform, that greatly limits the number of longer-term guests a resident can host. Not to mention, some of the buildings that Airbnb lists have even shorter limits – The Milano Lofts in DTLA for example only allows residents to host 90 nights a year.

Airbnb’s calculations of host earnings may be greatly misleading as well, given that the estimate doesn’t include host expenses, taxes, cleaning fees or individual building restrictions. For example, Airbnb estimates that a resident of a $3,699 one bedroom apartment at the Vinz in Hollywood that hosts 7 nights a month can expect $1,108 a month in revenue if they host year-round. But the Vinz only allows hosts to rent 90 days a year, which greatly limits the potential for subletters and a consistent income stream.

Keep in mind too that since the apartment will have to serve as the host’s “primary residence”, hosts will have to live there six months out of the year. All of which is to say, it’s unclear how renting an apartment in an “Airbnb-friendly” building makes hosting easier — especially in a city where illegal short-term rentals already seem to be the norm.

https://twitter.com/askhalid

The Streamy Awards Prove that Online Creators and Traditional Media Are Still Disconnected

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

tiktok influencers around a trophy ​
Andria Moore /Charli D'Amelio/Addison Rae/JiDion

Every year, the Streamy Awards, which is considered the top award show within the creator economy, reveals which creators are capturing the largest audiences. This past Sunday, the event, held at The Beverly Hilton, highlighted some of the biggest names in the influencer game, chief among them Mr. Beast and Charli D’Amelio. It had all the trappings of a traditional award show—extravagant gowns, quippy acceptance speeches and musical interludes. But, as TikTok creator Adam Rose told The Washington Post, the Streamys still lacks the legitimacy of traditional award shows.

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