The Biden administration is pushing for regulations of artificial intelligence systems that would require government audits to ensure that they produce trustworthy outputs. This could include assessments of whether AI is promoting misinformation and disinformation.
Alan Davidson, the assistant secretary of communications and information at the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), recently gave a speech at the University of Pittsburgh in which he discussed the importance of government audits of AI systems to build trust in this emerging technology.
Davidson said that such audits would help regulators assess whether AI systems perform as advertised and respect privacy and whether they lead to discriminatory outcomes or reflect unacceptable levels of bias.
He added that audits may also be used to determine whether AI systems promote misinformation, disinformation, or other misleading content. The goal of policing disinformation created by AI is likely to present both technical and political challenges to federal regulators.
The issue of misinformation and disinformation has been highly controversial under the Biden administration since Republicans and Democrats seem incapable of agreeing on a definition.
Last year, the Department of Homeland Security set up a “Disinformation Governance Board” but quickly dismantled it after it received withering criticism from Republicans who worried that the board would simply attack views and political opinions that run contrary to the Biden administration.
Despite the challenges, worries about biased AI have been growing over the last year as technology advances and could prove to be a fertile area for the government to regulate. So far, the Biden administration has put out some preliminary guidelines on how AI should be developed, such as an AI Bill of Rights and a voluntary risk management framework published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Other agencies are also dipping in a toe – the Federal Trade Commission, for example, has warned AI developers that it is watching to make sure consumers aren’t being sold on imaginary benefits that AI can’t yet achieve.
The Biden administration supports the advancement of trustworthy AI, and they are devoting a lot of energy to that goal across the government.
However, it remains to be seen how they will address the issue of misinformation and disinformation, and whether they will be able to work with Republicans to create meaningful regulations that protect both businesses and the public.