Reveal: Can algorithms be racist? Trump’s housing department says no

Reveal, August 5, 2019: Can algorithms be racist? Trump’s housing department says no

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is circulating new rules that would make it nearly impossible for banks – or landlords or homeowners insurance companies – to be sued when their algorithms result in people of color being disproportionately denied housing.

The rule would overturn 50 years of precedent, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015, that permit the use of statistical analysis to identify patterns of discrimination.

Under the Trump administration’s proposed regulations, a company accused of discrimination would be able “defeat” that claim if an algorithm is involved. A hypothetical bank that rejected every loan application filed by African Americans and approved every one filed by white people, for example, would need to prove only that race or a proxy for it was not used directly in constructing its computer model.

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