Tag Archives: ACLU

Artificial General Intelligences (AGIs) & Corporations Seminar at the Internet Archive Tomorrow (Sunday)

Note: if you can’t make this event, check out this literature review and this paper, which will still give you good idea of some of the subject matter :)

When: Sunday, April 8, 2018
Where: The Internet Archive, 300 Funston Ave, San Francisco, CA
Time: 2-6pm

Artificial General Intelligences & Corporations


Even if we don’t know yet how to align Artificial General Intelligences with our goals, we do have experience in aligning organizations with our goals. Some argue corporations are in fact Artificial Intelligences – legally at least we treat them as persons already.

The Foresight Institute, along with the Internet Archive, invite you to spend an afternoon examining AI alignment, especially whether our interactions with different types of organizations, e.g. our treatment of corporations as persons, allow insights into how to align AI goals with human goals.

While this meeting focuses on AI safety, it merges AI safety, philosophy, computer security, and law and should be highly relevant for anyone working in or interested in those areas.

Why this is really really important:

As we learned during last year’s Ethical Algorithms panel, there are many different ways that unchecked black box algorithms are being used against citizens daily.

This kind of software can literally ruin a person’s life, through no fault of their own – especially if they are already being discriminated against or profiled unfairly in some way in real life. This is because the algorithms tend to amplify and exaggerate any biases that already occur in the data being fed into the system (that it “learns” on).

Algorithms are just one of many tools that an an AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) might use in the course of its daily activities on behalf of whatever Corporation for which it operates.

The danger lies in the potential for misinterpretation by these AGIs should they be making decisions based on the faulty interpretations of unchecked black box algorithmic calculations.  For this reason, preservation of and public access to the original data sets used to train these algorithms is of paramount importance. And currently, that just isn’t the case.

The promise of AGIs is downright exciting, but how do we ensure that corporate-driven AGIs do not gain unruly control over public systems?

Arguably, corporations are already given too many rights – those rivaling or surpassing those of actual humans, at this point.

What happens when these Corporate “persons” have AGIs out in the world, interacting with live humans and other AGIs, on a constant basis. (AGIs never sleep.) How many tasks could your AGI do for you while you sleep at night? What instructions would you give your AGI? And whose “fault” is it when the goals of an AGI conflict with those of a living person?

Joi Ito, the Director of the MIT Media Lab, wrote a piece for the ACLU this week, concluding that AI Engineers Must Open Their Designs to Democratic Control  -“The internet, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, crypto-currencies, and other technologies are providing us with ever more tools to change the world around us. But there is a cost. We’re now awakening to the implications that many of these technologies have for individuals and society…

AI is now making decisions for judges about the risks that someone accused of a crime will violate the terms of his pretrial probation, even though a growing body of research has shown flaws in such decisions made by machines,” he writes. “A significant problem is that any biases or errors in the data the engineers used to teach the machine will result in outcomes that reflect those biases

Joi explains that the researchers at the M.I.T. Media Lab, have been starting to refer to these technologies as “extended intelligence” rather than “artificial intelligence.” “The term “extended intelligence” better reflects the expanding relationship between humans and society, on the one hand, and technologies like AI, blockchain, and genetic engineering on the other. Think of it as the principle of bringing society or humans into the loop,” he explains.

Sunday’s seminar will discuss all of these ideas and more, working towards a concept called “AI Alignment” – where the Corporate-controlled AGIs and humans work toward shared goals.

The problem is that almost all of the AGIs being developed are, in fact, some form of corporate AGI.

That’s why a group of AGI scientists founded OpenCog, to provide a framework that anyone can use.

Aaron Swartz Day is working with OpenCog on building an in-world robot concierge for our VR Destination, and we will be discussing and teaching about the privacy and security considerations of AGI and VR in an educational area within the museum – and of course on this website :-). Also #AGIEthics will be a hackathon track this year, along with #EthicalAlgorithms :-)

So! If this is all interesting to you – PLEASE come on Sunday :-) !

There will also be an Aaron Swartz Day planning meeting –> way early this year –> because really we never stopped working on the projects from last November –> you are gonna love it! –> The meeting is at the Internet Archive on May 23, 2018 at 6pm. There will be an RSVP soon – but save the date! :-)

More on that soon! :)


  1.  AGI and Corporations Seminar, Internet Archive & Foresight Institute, April 8, 2018
  2. AI Engineers Must Open Their Designs to Democratic Control , by Joi Ito for the ACLU. April 2, 2018
  3. Machine Bias – There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks. by Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner, ProPublica, May 23, 2016
  4. The OpenCog Foundation – Building Better AGI Minds Together
  5. The Swartz-Manning VR Destination, An Aaron Swartz Day Op
  6. The Algorithmic Justice League
  7. Gendershades.org



Interview with Alison Macrina, Founder of the Library Freedom Project

lison Macrina, Founder, Library Freedom Project
Alison Macrina, Founder, Library Freedom Project

About the Library Freedom Project, the ACLU, and Tor

The Library Freedom Project (LFP), along with its partners the ACLU and the Tor Project, provides trainings for library communities, teaching people their rights under the law, and how to find and use free and open source, privacy protective technologies.

Alison spoke at this year’s Aaron Swartz Day event (video, transcript).

LFP had a bit of excitement last summer, when it and the Tor Project worked with the Kilton Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, to set up a Tor relay. Those who run Tor relays are providing a public service, as Tor is a free, open network that helps people defend against mass surveillance by providing them anonymity online. Tor depends on thousands of volunteers who run “relays” (computer servers that support the Tor network).

Libraries are ideal locations to host Tor relays, because they are staunch supporters of intellectual freedom and privacy, and because they provide access to other essential internet services. This was the spirit behind the Kilton Library seeking to become one of the many nodes in Tor’s worldwide internet freedom system.

Tor is used by human rights activists, diplomats, journalists, government officials, and anyone else who values privacy. For instance, Journalists in repressive countries use it to publish their work without fear of government surveillance, censorship or prosecution. Domestic violence survivors use it, so that they cannot be tracked by former partners. People in African countries like Zimbabwe and South Africa use it to report poaching of endangered animals without fear of retribution.

Human Rights Watch recommends Tor for human rights advocates in their report about censorship in China. Reporters without borders suggests that journalists and bloggers all over the world should use Tor to keep themselves and their sources safe.

Tor was originally developed by the US Navy, and still gets funding from the State Department, as it is used by many high officials in the US Government.

When LFP announced the Tor relay project at the Kilton Library, that project received popular media attention and overwhelming community support. Then, in mid-August (2015), the Boston office of the Department of Homeland Security contacted the Portsmouth and Lebanon Police Departments, to warn them, falsely, that Tor’s primary use is to aid and abet criminal activity. In the face of this Federal Law Enforcement pressure, the Kilton Library shut down the project.

The kind of pre-emptory thought crime was disturbing to say the least. LFP compared the move to shutting down public parks for fear that crimes might be committed there in the future. This Kilton Letter, published by LFP, on September 2, provides a more thorough explanation of what took place and why. The letter was signed by members of the ACLU, The Tor Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Luckily, the Lebanon Board of Trustees had a change of heart, as explained in the Valley News article, Despite Law Enforcement Concerns, Lebanon Board Will Reactivate Privacy Network Tor at Kilton Library:

The Lebanon Library Board of Trustees let stand its unanimous June decision to devote some of the library’s excess bandwidth to a node, or “relay,” for Tor, after a full room of about 50 residents and other interested members of the public expressed their support for Lebanon’s participation in the system at a meeting Tuesday night.

“With any freedom there is risk,” library board Chairman Francis Oscadal said. “It came to me that I could vote in favor of the good … or I could vote against the bad. “I’d rather vote for the good because there is value to this.”

Interview with Alison Macrina

Lisa:  So the good guys won in Kilton! Is the Tor relay still up and going strong?

Alison: Quick note: we won in Lebanon, New Hampshire. The name of the library is Kilton Library, of the Lebanon Libraries. And yes, the board and community decided unanimously to keep the relay online. Chuck McAndrew, the IT librarian, recently turned it from a non-exit into an exit, so we’re going to write a blog post soon detailing the success of the pilot and encouraging other libraries to get on board.

Lisa: Can other libraries contact you about setting up their own Tor relay?

Alison: Yes, they can contact us at exits@libraryfreedomproject.org for all the information and supporting materials they might need. We have a questionnaire for them to fill out regarding their network details. And then we can schedule a time for us to do a site visit.

Lisa: What is your advice to Librarians who are thinking about setting up a Tor relay, that might be getting pressured by their local law enforcement to not do so?

Alison: We can’t guarantee that law enforcement won’t try to halt other libraries from participating in this project, but we can use Kilton Library’s example in case such a thing happens again. If law enforcement pressures another library, we will do what we did in Lebanon — rally a network of global support to stand behind the library and urge them to continue their participation in the project. We think that our overwhelming victory at Kilton shows us that we’ll be victorious at other libraries, should it come to that.

Lisa: So there’s nothing inherently criminal about using Tor any more than there is something inherently criminal about using the Internet?

Alison: Not at all! Privacy-enhancing technologies like Tor are
perfectly legal. Tools like Tor are also the best ways to protect
ourselves against government and corporate surveillance. By using and promoting Tor Browser and running Tor relays, libraries can help
ordinary people protect their privacy and other basic civil rights.

Alison Macrina, Founder of the Library Freedom Project, spoke at this year’s Celebration of Hackers and Whistleblowers, on November 7th, and also gave a two-hour tutorial on Sunday morning, at the Privacy-enabling Mini-Conference, on November 8th.


Congrats to Citizen Four’s Oscar Win! Ed Snowden’s Statement via the ACLU

Congratulations to Laura Poitras and her team for winning an Oscar for Best Documentary! Her film is truly unprecedented.

academy awards newLaura lists SecureDrop (the whistleblower submission platform originally developed by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen) in the credits of tools she used during the making of Citizen Four.

citizen four

Ed Snowden is legally represented by the ACLU. (See his statement on the film winning here, and also reprinted below.) He is  on the Board of Directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the organization that picked up SecureDrop’s development, at Kevin Poulsen’s request, after Aaron’s death.

Garrett Robinson, Lead Developer of SecureDrop, presented at last year’s Aaron Swartz Day (video). Here’s a relevant interview with Garrett Robinson from last year about why SecureDrop is so important for a functioning democracy.

The purpose of SecureDrop is to provide a secure, anonymous platform where citizens can upload information to a news organization, but without having to potentially put their whole life at risk in the process. There are now 15 SecureDrop implementations all over the world!

Here’s the ACLU press release:

Edward Snowden Congratulates Laura Poitras for Winning Best Documentary Oscar for Citizenfour

The following is a statement from Edward Snowden provided to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents him:

“When Laura Poitras asked me if she could film our encounters, I was extremely reluctant. I’m grateful that I allowed her to persuade me. The result is a brave and brilliant film that deserves the honor and recognition it has received. My hope is that this award will encourage more people to see the film and be inspired by its message that ordinary citizens, working together, can change the world.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, had this reaction:

“Laura’s remarkable film has helped fuel a global debate on the dangers of mass surveillance and excessive government secrecy. The ACLU could not be more delighted that she has been recognized with an Academy Award.”

The ACLU’s petition asking President Obama to grant clemency to Snowden is at:

Information on government spying is at:

Help Protect The Next Aaron Swartz (ACLU Petition)