White House unveils wide-ranging action to mitigate AI risks


Oct 30 – U.S. President Joe Biden will take wide ranging action on artificial intelligence (AI) on Monday by seeking to increase safety while protecting consumers, workers, and minority groups from the technology’s related risks.

The executive order he will unveil is the latest step by the administration to set parameters around AI as it makes rapid gains in capability and popularity in an environment of, so far, limited regulation.

AI companies such as OpenAI, Alphabet (GOOGL.O) and Meta Platforms (META.O) previously agreed voluntarily to commit to watermark AI-generated content to make the technology safer.

The new executive order, which Biden will highlight at an event on Monday, goes further than those commitments.

It requires that developers of AI systems that pose risks to U.S. national security, the economy, public health or safety share the results of safety tests with the U.S. government, in line with the Defense Production Act, before they are released to the public.

It also directs agencies to set standards for that testing and address related chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity risks, according to the White House.

To make sure government communications are clear, the Commerce Department will “develop guidance for content authentication and watermarking” for label items that are generated by AI, the White House said in a release about the order.

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed called the order, which also delves into privacy, housing discrimination and job displacement, the “strongest set of actions” any government had taken to ensure AI security.

“It’s the next step in an aggressive strategy to do everything on all fronts to harness the benefits of AI and mitigate the risks,” he said in a statement.

The Group of Seven industrial countries on Monday will agree a code of conduct for companies developing advanced artificial intelligence systems, according to a G7 document.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters ahead of the official unveiling of the order, pushed back against criticism that Europe had been more aggressive at regulating AI than the United States has.

The official said the executive order had the force of law and the White House believed that legislative action from Congress was also necessary for AI governance.

Biden is calling on Congress in particular to pass legislation on data privacy, the White House said.

U.S. officials have warned that AI can heighten the risk of bias and civil rights violations and Biden’s executive order seeks to address that by calling for guidance to landlords, federal benefits programs and federal contractors “to keep AI algorithms from being used to exacerbate discrimination,” the release said.

The order also calls for the development of “best practices” to address harms that AI may cause workers, including job displacement, and requires a report on labor market impacts.

Vice President Kamala Harris will attend an AI global summit in Britain this week; China is also expected to be represented at the meeting, hosted by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Sunak has said only governments could tackle the risks posed by AI, a technology he said could make it easier to build chemical or biological weapons, spread fear and, in a worse-case scenario, escape human control.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by John Kruzel; editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA’s work was recognized with Deutsche Welle’s “Freedom of Speech Award.” Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA’s “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure” award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists’ “Breaking News” award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.

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