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FTC issues report to Congress on use of AI

Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Federal Issues FTC Artificial Intelligence Congress

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

On June 16, the FTC issued a report to Congress regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI), warning that policymakers should use caution when relying on AI to combat the spread of harmful online conduct. In the 2021 Appropriations Act, Congress directed the FTC to study and report on whether and how AI “may be used to identify, remove, or take any other appropriate action necessary to address” a wide variety of specified “online harms,” referring specifically to content that is deceptive, fraudulent, manipulated, or illegal. The report suggests that adoption of AI could be problematic, as AI tools can be biased, discriminatory, or inaccurate, and could rely on invasive forms of surveillance. To avoid introducing these additional harms, the report suggests lawmakers instead focus on developing legal frameworks to ensure no additional harm is caused by AI tools used by major technology platforms and others. The report further suggests that Congress, regulators, platforms, scientists, and others focus their attention on creating frameworks to address the following related considerations, among others: (i) the need for human intervention in connection with monitoring the use and decisions of AI tools intended to address harmful content; (ii) the need for meaningful transparency, “which includes the need for it to be explainable and contestable, especially when people’s rights are involved or when personal data is being collected or used”; and (iii) the need for accountability with respect to the data practices and results of the use of AI tools by platforms and other companies. Other recommendations include use of authentication tools, responsible use of inputs and outputs by data scientist, and using interventions, such as tools that slow the viral spread or otherwise limit the impact of certain harmful content.

The Commission voted 4-1 at an open meeting to send the report to Congress. Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips issued a dissenting statement, finding that the report provides “short shrift to how and why AI is being used to combat the online harms identified by Congress,” and instead “reads as a general indictment of the technology itself.”

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