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Rage Against The Machine and more vow to boycott venues using face-scanning technology

The technology has been criticised for its “baked-in discrimination” of people of colour

By Charlotte Krol

Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine performing live in 2007
Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine performs live. (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Carlos Ginard)

Members of Rage Against The Machine and other acts have vowed to boycott venues that use face-scanning technology for the purpose of authenticating ticketholders’ identities.

More than a hundred artists have signed a pledge organised by nonprofit organisation Fight For The Future, which aims to draw attention to the use of what it says is discriminatory technology. Zack De La Rocha and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine are some of the more high profile names behind the pledge, while Wheatus, Boots Riley and Anti-Flag have also given their support.

The pledge reads: “This invasive biometric surveillance isn’t safe, especially for Black and brown people who have been falsely arrested or ejected from public places due to the tech’s baked-in discrimination.

“In recent years, a coalition of musicians, fans, and human rights groups successfully got more than 40 of the world’s largest music festivals, including Bonnaroo and Coachella, to say they won’t use facial recognition at events,” the pledge continues. “But now this tech is starting to spread — not only as a surveillance tool, but also as a form of ‘paperless’ ticketing and payment.”

Fight For The Future’s campaign was launched last year after news broke that NYC venue Madison Square Garden (MSG) was using the technology.

As reported in Rolling Stone, staff at the venue had been using the technology to identify lawyers present at any of its New York venues and removing them if they were working for a firm that was in the process of suing MSG.

Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden. (Picture: lovingnewyork)

Confirming the tactic, a representative for Madison Square Garden Entertainment said: “MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation against the Company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved. While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment.”

In related news, ABBA legend Björn Ulvaeus is the latest high profile face to add his voice to the debate over the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the future of music.