Further thoughts on Facebook and AI Governance

Anthony Habayeb
October 21, 2021

Hello there, Anthony Habayeb here, co-founder and CEO of Monitaur.

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a flight heading to a conference for work. I haven't done that in a very long time, and I was watching Frances Haugen's testimony as a whistleblower about things that were happening at Facebook around their algorithms, advertising, and content filtering. I wrote a blog post about it that got picked up by a couple of news outlets. It's interesting because, since I published that piece, I've had some feedback that comes from two different camps.

Lack of oversight

One camp is critical, challenging me and effectively saying "Anthony, why are you not being harder on the oversight and the failures that Facebook seemingly had around some of their applications? You're building in an AI governance company. You should be jumping all over that, right? This is exactly why Monitaur needs to exist!"

While I agree, it feels a bit like ambulance chasing to me in a way that would overlook my point.

Software can do good

The other camp appreciated that I was unwilling to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think Facebook has done some great things for our lives. My children and grandparents are more connected because of Facebook, since we don't live near them. There are probably countless other stories of connectivity and human relationships that the tech platform has helped create.

I worked at Yahoo! in the early days of behavioral ad targeting. I am thankful for getting advertisements served to me on my browser that are the things I care about, instead of getting ads for things that I don't care about.

The Benefits of AI

I think that algorithms are improving health care. Moderna's solution for COVID-19 was very much thanks to machine learning and AI, and I fundamentally believe that our lives are being made better thanks to software, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. So, I want us to do better.

Of course I believe what we're doing at Monitaur is important. Obviously – I'm spending a lot of energy in building this company. I still think it's important that, as we think about regulating software and artificial intelligence, we do so in the context that it's a new and exciting, as well as being generally positive, impactful technology. Just like we realized that automotive as an earlier industrial revolution was amazing and exciting innovation that eventually became heavily regulated with that recognition.

We will do that with software, and I encourage all of my colleagues and friends who are thinking about the problems related to AI governance, machine learning assurance, fairness, and ethical principles around AI to always keep in context that the companies that are most advanced in using this technology are also hugely impactful on our lives in many positive ways.

We should maintain a balance of creating appropriate oversight, governance, and risk management of these systems, while we also celebrate the great advancements and positive impacts these technologies are having on our lives. It's a hard challenge, but one that I hope that we as a community can come together around.

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