Bipartisan Push To Block Legal Protections For AI Begins

A bipartisan effort is underway to block artificial intelligence companies from enjoying the same level of blanket immunity granted to large tech players.

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) proposed legislation to deny Section 230 immunity for these companies. Section 230 is contained in the Communications Decency Act and limits tech platforms from liability for content posted or uploaded.

There are many on both sides of the political aisle who feel that Section 230 granted far too much leeway to Big Tech.

One effect of the amendments proposed by Hawley and Blumenthal would be to hold AI companies accountable in court for lifelike but fake images generated through their technology. These “deepfake” photos and videos of real people are striking in their similarity.

Hawley declared in a press release that it is critical that lawmakers avoid the “same mistakes” that were made with Big Tech and Section 230. “When new technologies harm innocent people, the companies must be held accountable.”

Blumenthal called the proposal a “first step” toward implementing safeguards around the wave of AI technology that is sweeping the globe. Advances in capabilities are coming fast, and investment in the sector is surging even faster.

The Democrat declared that the AI industry “should be forced to take responsibility for business decisions as they’re developing products — without any Section 230 legal shield.” He emphasized that safeguards are needed “as we enter this new era.”

It is telling that both Republicans and Democrats call for this legislative action.

Both sides long asserted that there are issues with Facebook and Google, but finding common ground on how to fix the problems has been elusive. Not so with Section 230 and AI.

On the short list of items President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agree on is Section 230.

Both, though likely for different reasons, called for tech companies to be held accountable for how their algorithms shape the spread of content.

The Communications Decency Act of 1996 shielded the blossoming tech industry on the new and wildly popular internet from being legally held as the “publisher or speaker” of content posted or uploaded by users. Many credited this for helping spur the growth of cyberspace.

Since then there have been a few exceptions carved out, particularly for copyright infringement and cases involving child trafficking.