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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

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U.S. House forms artificial intelligence task force as legislative push stalls

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U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) holds a press conference at Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., Feb. 14, 2024. (REUTERS/Leah Millis)
Artificial intelligence continues to capture the attention of Washington
By David Shepardson | REUTERS

Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives said Tuesday they are forming a bipartisan task force to explore potential legislation to address concerns around artificial intelligence.

Efforts in Congress to pass legislation addressing AI have stalled despite numerous high-level forums and legislative proposals over the past year.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said the task force would be charged with producing a comprehensive report and consider “guardrails that may be appropriate to safeguard the nation against current and emerging threats.”

Generative AI — which can create text, photos and videos in response to open-ended prompts — has spurred excitement as well as fears it could make some jobs obsolete, upend elections and potentially overpower humans and have catastrophic effects.

The issue received new attention after a fake robocall in January imitating President Joe Biden sought to dissuade people from voting for him in New Hampshire’s Democratic primary election. The Federal Communications Commission declared this month calls made with AI-generated voices are illegal.

The task force report will include “guiding principles, forward-looking recommendations and bipartisan policy proposals developed in consultation with committees” in Congress.

Jeffries said “the rise of artificial intelligence also presents a unique set of challenges and certain guardrails must be put in place to protect the American people.”

In October, Biden signed an executive order that aims to reduce the risks of AI. In January, the Commerce Department said it was proposing to require U.S. cloud companies to determine whether foreign entities are accessing U.S. data centers to train AI models.

Representative Jay Obernolte, the Republican chair of the 24-member task force, said the report will detail “the regulatory standards and Congressional actions needed to both protect consumers and foster continued investment and innovation in AI.”

Democratic co-chair Ted Lieu Force said “the question is how to ensure AI benefits society instead of harming us.”

Earlier this month, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said leading AI companies were among more than 200 entities joining a new U.S. consortium to support safe AI deployment including OpenAI, Alphabet’s Google, Anthropic, Microsoft, Meta Platforms, Apple, Amazon.com and Nvidia.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Miral Fahmy

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