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Chuck Schumer calls on Congress to pick up the pace on AI regulation

Debt Limit Deal Heads To Senate After Passing House
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer gives a thumbs up after Senate passes debt limit deal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is launching a new “all-hands-on-deck” effort Wednesday to regulate artificial intelligence, aiming to strike a balance between economic competitiveness and safety.

Schumer laid out his vision in a speech at a Washington think tank on Wednesday, calling on his Senate colleagues to create new rules regulating the emerging AI industry. The plan, the SAFE (Security, Accountability, Foundations, Explain) Innovation Framework, doesn’t provide specific policy requests or define the boundaries of “AI.” Instead, it asks lawmakers to work together to address a variety of AI’s potential risks, from national security and job loss to misinformation, bias, and copyright.

“AI could be our most spectacular innovation yet, a force that could ignite a new era of technological advancement, scientific discovery, and industrial might,” Schumer said in his prepared remarks viewed by The Verge. “The first issue we must tackle is encouraging, not stifling, innovation. But if people don’t think innovation can be done safely, that will stifle AI’s development and even prevent us from moving forward.”

Congress has struggled to regulate the tech industry, failing to pass long-debated legislation on data privacy and competition. But AI is different, according to Schumer, and presents new threats that lawmakers should address with urgency. To help quicken Congress’ pace on AI rules, Schumer said he would convene a series of “AI Insight Forums” later this year. These panels are intended to bring experts and lawmakers together to help form regulations.

“We want the experts, in each subject where we have questions and problems, to sit around the table, debate the major challenges, and forge consensus about the way to go,” Schumer said. “Opposing views will be welcome, even encouraged, because this issue is so new that we must put all ideas on the table.”

Currently, it’s unclear who Schumer plans to bring in for these meetings. Lawmakers already hauled in ChatGPT CEO Sam Altman in May for a hearing focused on learning more about the industry and its potential for harm. It was a far friendlier event when compared to past tech hearings, as Altman agreed with many of the same reforms the senators proposed. Still, this chummy rapport has spooked some experts who fear regulatory capture in the US as OpenAI lobbies for weaker rules in the EU.

Schumer’s plan falls in line with the White House’s public statements on AI. After meeting with CEOs from ChatGPT, Google, and Microsoft last month, Vice President Kamala Harris said these companies have an “ethical, moral, and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products.” President Joe Biden met with AI experts Tuesday in San Francisco to discuss AI’s “enormous promise and risk.”

“We’ll see more technological change in the next ten years than we’ve seen in the last 50 years and maybe even beyond that. And AI is already driving that change in every part of American life often in ways we don’t notice,” Biden said Tuesday. “Social media has already shown us the harm of powerful — that powerful — powerful technology can do without the right safeguards in place.”

Still, issues like privacy and liability have divided lawmakers trying to regulate other forms of tech in recent years. Earlier this month, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) put out a new bill making clear that Section 230, which prevents platforms from being sued for user-generated content, wouldn’t apply to AI-generated content.

Other bills, like Sen. Michael Bennet’s (D-CO) ASSESS AI Act, would require federal agencies to review their AI policies and make recommendations to Congress for future legislation. In the House, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Ken Buck (R-CO) put out a new bill Tuesday that would create a new federal commission in charge of recommending and establishing new rules.

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FTC investigating OpenAI on ChatGPT data collection and publication of false information

OpenAI CEO Samuel Altman Testifies To Senate Committee On Rules For Artificial Intelligence
Photo by Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating ChatGPT creator OpenAI over possible consumer harm through its data collection and the publication of false information.

First reported by The Washington Post, the FTC sent a 20-page letter to the company this week. The letter requests documents related to developing and training its large language models, as well as data security.

The FTC wants to get detailed information on how OpenAI vets information used in training for its models and how it prevents false claims from being shown to ChatGPT users. It also wants to learn more about how APIs connect to its systems and how data is protected when accessed by third parties.

The FTC declined to comment. OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

This is the first major US investigation into OpenAI, which burst into the public consciousness over the past year with the release of ChatGPT. The popularity of ChatGPT and the large language models that power it kicked off an AI arms race prompting competitors like Google and Meta to release their own models.

The FTC has signaled increased regulatory oversight of AI before. In 2021, the agency warned companies against using biased algorithms. Industry watchdog Center for AI and Digital Policy also called on the FTC to stop OpenAI from launching new GPT models in March.

Large language models can put out factually inaccurate information. OpenAI warns ChatGPT users that it can occasionally generate incorrect facts, and Google’s chatbot Bard’s first public demo did not inspire confidence in its accuracy. And based on personal experience, both have spit out incredibly flattering, though completely invented, facts about myself. Other people have gotten in trouble for using ChatGPT. A lawyer was sanctioned for submitting fake cases created by ChatGPT, and a Georgia radio host sued the company for results that claimed he was accused of embezzlement.

US lawmakers showed great interest in AI, both in understanding the technology and possibly looking into enacting regulations around it. The Biden administration released a plan to provide a responsible framework for AI development, including a $140 million investment to launch research centers. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch also discussed chatbots’ potential legal liability earlier this year.

It is in this environment that AI leaders like OpenAI CEO Sam Altman have made the rounds in Washington. Altman lobbied Congress to create regulations around AI.

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OpenAI will use Associated Press news stories to train its models

An illustration of a cartoon brain with a computer chip imposed on top.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

OpenAI will train its AI models on The Associated Press’ news stories for the next two years, thanks to an agreement first reported by Axios. The deal between the two companies will give OpenAI access to some of the content in AP’s archive as far back as 1985.

As part of the agreement, AP will gain access to OpenAI’s “technology and product expertise,” although it’s not clear exactly what that entails. AP has long been exploring AI features and began generating reports about company earnings in 2014. It later leveraged the technology to automate stories about Minor League Baseball and college sports.

AP joins OpenAI’s growing list of partners. On Tuesday, the AI company announced a six-year deal with Shutterstock that will let OpenAI license images, videos, music, and metadata to train its text-to-image model, DALL-E. BuzzFeed also says it will use AI tools provided by OpenAI to “enhance” and “personalize” its content. OpenAI is also working with Microsoft on a number of AI-powered products as part of Microsoft’s partnership and “‘multibillion dollar investment” into the company.

“The AP continues to be an industry leader in the use of AI; their feedback — along with access to their high-quality, factual text archive — will help to improve the capabilities and usefulness of OpenAI’s systems,” Brad Lightcap, OpenAI’s chief operating officer, says in a statement.

Earlier this year, AP announced AI-powered projects that will publish Spanish-language news alerts and document public safety incidents in a Minnesota newspaper. The outlet also launched an AI search tool that’s supposed to make it easier for news partners to find photos and videos in its library based on “descriptive language.”

AP’s partnership with OpenAI seems like a natural next step, but there are still a lot of crucial details missing about how the outlet will use the technology. AP makes it clear it “does not use it in its news stories.”

Did you miss our previous article…

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Congress is trying to stop discriminatory algorithms again

A person with their hand hovering over the Like button on Facebook.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

US policymakers hope to require online platforms to disclose information about their algorithms and allow the government to intervene if these are found to discriminate based on criteria like race or gender.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) reintroduced the Algorithmic Justice and Online Platform Transparency Act, which aims to ban the use of discriminatory or “harmful” automated decision-making. It would also establish safety standards, require platforms to provide a plain language explanation of algorithms used by websites, publish annual reports on content moderation practices, and create a governmental task force to investigate discriminatory algorithmic processes.

The bill applies to “online platforms” or any commercial, public-facing website or app that “provides a community forum for user-generated content.” This can include social media sites, content aggregation services, or media and file-sharing sites.

Markey and Matsui introduced a previous version of the bill in 2021. It moved to the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce but died in committee.

Data-based decision-making, including social media recommendation algorithms or machine learning systems, often lives in proverbial black boxes. This opacity sometimes exists because of intellectual property concerns or a system’s complexity.

But lawmakers and regulators worry this could obscure biased decision-making with a huge impact on people’s lives, well beyond the reach of the online platforms the bill covers. Insurance companies, including those working with Medicaid patients, already use algorithms to grant or deny patient coverage. Agencies such as the FTC signaled in 2021 that they may pursue legal action against biased algorithms.

Calls to make more transparent algorithms have grown over the years. After several scandals in 2018 — which included the Cambridge Analytica debacle — AI research group AI Now found governments and companies don’t have a way to punish organizations that produce discriminatory systems. In a rare move, Facebook and Instagram announced the formation of a group to study potential racial bias in its algorithms.

“Congress must hold Big Tech accountable for its black-box algorithms that perpetuate discrimination, inequality, and racism in our society – all to make a quick buck,” Markey said in a statement.

Most proposed regulations around AI and algorithms include a push to create more transparency. The European Union’s proposed AI Act, in its final stages of negotiation, also noted the importance of transparency and accountability.

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