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Senators Introduce Bill To Form US Regulatory Agency Just For AI

 |  May 22, 2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) technology’s dramatic surge in the private marketplace has caught lawmakers’ attention.

US senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) have introduced a bill, the Digital Platform Commission Act, proposing the creation of a new, five-member federal agency, the Federal Digital Platform Commission, to regulate AI and other transformative technologies.

“Technology is moving quicker than Congress could ever hope to keep up with. We need an expert federal agency that can stand up for the American people and ensure AI tools and digital platforms operate in the public interest,” Bennet said.

“There’s no reason that the biggest tech companies on Earth should face less regulation than Colorado’s small businesses,” he added.

Related: Protecting Patient Data in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

The idea of establishing a dedicated technology regulator has been passed around Washington for years, but powerful lobbying interests, as well as fears of hamstringing innovation — one of America’s greatest exports — have so far kept lawmakers on the sidelines, allowing technological advances to continually transform both domestic and global economies.

Now, those major digital platforms which have become foundationally central to day-to-day life continue to operate without the degree of regulatory oversight that other critical industries including medicine, finance and telecommunications are subject to.

Adding to policymakers’ concerns is the fact that AI capabilities, for their part, are increasingly being interwoven into those foundational digital platforms.

“We are not alone in developing this technology,” OpenAI’s Altman told U.S. lawmakers last Tuesday. “It will be important for policymakers to consider how to implement licensing regulations on a global scale and ensure international cooperation on AI safety, including examining potential intergovernmental oversight mechanisms and standard-setting.”

IBM Chief Privacy and Trust Officer Christina Montgomery also urged Congress to adopt a “precision regulation” approach to AI, establishing rules to govern the deployment of AI in specific use-cases, not regulating the technology itself.

“A wrench can be used to assemble a desk or construct an airplane, yet the rules governing those two end products are not primarily based on the wrench — they are based on use,” Montgomery said.

“This focus on regulatory guardrails established by Congress does not — not by any stretch — let business off the hook for its role in enabling the responsible deployment of AI,” she added, emphasizing that Congress should separately formalize disclosure requirements to ensure Americans “know when they are interacting with an AI system.”

This, as leaders of the G7 nations — the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan —  have all agreed to hold cabinet level discussions around a common vision of AI oversight in what they are calling the “Hiroshima Process.”

The AI-focused tenor of G7 Summit came just days after OpenAI’s CEO Sam Altman testified before Congress (May 16) saying that, “the U.S. government should consider a combination of licensing or registration requirements for development and release of AI models … alongside incentives for full compliance with these requirements.”