When big data and algorithms compile “kill lists,” mistakes can be deadly

Two journalists with long-term ties to the Middle East, including one US citizen, have been targeted for death because they are erroneously listed on the US government’s terrorist kill list. On March 30, 2017, the parties — Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan and Bilal Abdul Kareem — filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act for being placed on this kill list. From the complaint:

Plaintiffs are both journalists who do courageous and important reporting in some of the most difficult areas of the world. Their travel, communications, social media content and contacts, related data and metadata have been input into “algorithms” used by the United States to identify terrorists. Those algorithms have identified them as persons to be killed, not because they are terrorists but because the methodologies employed by defendants result in the unjustified killing of innocent people. Plaintiffs’ inclusion on the Kill List is the result of arbitrary and capricious agency action, accomplished without due process, and in violation of the United States Constitution and U.S. and international law.

— Joe

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