The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Stealth Quotas Bite the Dust

In this Congress, anyway.


For those who've followed the progress of a dangerous stealth quota provision in Congress, I'm pleased to report that what looked three weeks ago like a retreat on the issue has turned into a full-fledged rout.

A new discussion draft of the widely touted American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) has been released. This bill was hailed as a bipartisan and bicameral compromise with overwhelming support when it first appeared. The original version contained a detailed blueprint for imposing race, gender, and other preferences on algorithms that use personal data. After a long analysis of the risks of such an approach ran here in the Volokh Conspiracy, a second version of the bill was released that dropped most of the detail but still had troubling provisions that could have encouraged similar preferences, as pointed out in a second Volokh Conspiracy post.

Now a third discussion draft has been released, and it drops all of the algorithmic discrimination and civil rights provisions that were driving quotas. It is a complete victory for those of us who objected to the smuggling of race and gender preferences into the digital infrastructure that will govern our economy and society for the next several decades.

The bill will go to markup next week. It remains controversial. A good summary of the issues can be found in this piece by Brandon Pugh and Steven Ward of R Street. There will be some bare-fisted R-on-R fighting over the bill, a priority for the retiring chair of the House commerce committee. But at least quotas won't be part of the bargain.

On a personal note, this has been an unusual experience for me. There is no doubt that staff and members of the commerce committee have been paying attention to these posts, and modifying the bill to respond to them.  But exactly which staff and which members has never been entirely clear. So I can only lift a virtual glass to the anonymous heroes who performed such effective work in the trenches: And I promise that I'll be glad to buy you an actual beer if I ever learn who you are!