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Artificial Intelligence

Bi-Partisan Congressmen: Trump Administration Lost Technology Leverage with China by Removing ZTE Ban



WASHINGTON, July 12, 2018 – A Republican congressman on Wednesday criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of the ZTE ban as a waste of an opportunity that could have given the U.S. a leg up in the race for new technology.

Earlier, the Commerce Department announced that the U.S. has signed an agreement to lift the ban on Chinese phone-manufacturer ZTE once ZTE deposits $400 million into a U.S. bank  escrow account.

In the morning, politicians and experts gathered at a Politico event about artificial intelligence, which quickly became a criticism of China-U.S. relations in the tech industry.

“I think we missed an opportunity with ZTE,” Congressman Will Hurd, R-Texas, said, referring to the government’s response to the ZTE situation.

ZTE in the cross-hairs of executive and legislative branches

Earlier in the year, ZTE came under fire for violating U.S trade sanctions by illegally shipping parts to Iran and North Korea. Due to the violations, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a ban on ZTE in April, preventing U.S. companies from exporting parts to ZTE.

In June, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross officially declared that the government had reached a deal to lift the ban on ZTE. This announcement was met with large amounts of criticism from Democrats such as Sen. Bill Nelson, of Florida, who said at a hearing of the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Infrastructure Agency that “the administration simply needs to revert back to a ban on ZTE.”

This criticism has crossed party lines as Hurd, a Republican, expressed similar disappointment in the administration’s decisions to lift the ban on ZTE.

“[ZTE] is an extension of the Chinese government. They were on their knees because they violated a number of international rules,” Hurd said.

Trump administration reaction called a lost point of leverage

According to Hurd, the ZTE incident represents the U.S. losing an opportunity to bargain with China. The incident with ZTE should have been used to force China to treat American companies in China the same as China treats companies from its own nation, Hurd said.

The July 11 agreement, signed amid Trump’s escalating trade war with China, will allow ZTE to begin trading again with U.S. companies after a three-month ban, once ZTE deposits the $400 million into an escrow account.

The ban had begun to cripple ZTE before Trump announced over tweet that he would work with the Chinese government to find a solution, citing massive job loss as a reason for his cooperation.

“We had a leverage point – I think we lost it,” Hurd said. “Trade wars with our allies are bad, but we should be using every tool in our tool kit against China.”

Is America at a disadvantage in playing by the rules?

Rep. John Delaney, D-Maryland, voiced concerns that the U.S. could lose in trade battles with China due to differences between the two countries’ governance styles.

“Our private sector is unrivaled,” Delaney said. “What [Hurd] highlighted is that China’s ascent to our rival economically is based on two things. One, they’ve worked harder and they’re making smarter investments, but the second thing they’ve done is not play by the rules.”

“We can’t let them do the second part,” Delaney said. “We have to put them in a position where they play by the rules.” China does well, he said because  “they are willing to sacrifice their citizens for the good of the advancement of the country.”

Hurd echoed those fears that the U.S. may be at risk of falling behind in a global trade race.

“How are we doing? I would say best case scenario, we’re tied with China,” Hurd said.

Falling behind China in other areas of technology

The idea that the U.S. is falling behind in the global race is not isolated to artificial intelligence.

Recently, the 5G debate and antitrust policy debates have been linked to Chinese competition. In a hearing on the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile, company officials argued that the merger is necessary now – in the age of the Chinese threat –in order to accelerate U.S. 5G development.

“We’re still the benchmark, because the greatest innovators, the smartest people – all that is here in the United States of America. But China – their investment in AI research, their ability to force their private sector and their government to work together, is unparalleled,” said Hurd. “They don’t care about privacy.”

Hurd warned that due to China’s “authoritarian government”, China can “force action” in their industry and potentially bypass the U.S. in the tech industry.

In the past, China has been accused of stealing intellectual property of American companies to further its own inventions and market.  However, Hurd suggested that though that has been the case of the past, in the present, China is quickly sowing the seeds for growing their own technology and innovation sector.

(Photo from Politico event on July 11, 2018, by Heather Heimbach.)

Artificial Intelligence

Experts Debate Artificial Intelligence Licensing Legislation

Licensing requirements will distract from wide scale testing and will limit competition, an event heard.



Photo of B Cavello of Aspen Institute, Austin Carson of SeedAI, Aalok Mehta of OpenAI

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2023 – Experts on artificial intelligence disagree on whether licensing is the proper legislation for the technology. 

If adopted, licensing requirements would require companies to obtain a federal license prior to developing AI technology. Last week, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman testified that Congress should consider a series of licensing and testing requirements for AI models above a threshold of capability. 

At a Public Knowledge event Monday, Aalok Mehta, head of US Public Policy at OpenAI, added licensing is a means to ensuring that AI developers put together safety practices. By establishing licensing rules, we are developing external validation tools that will improve consumer experience, he said. 

Generative AI — the model used by chatbots including OpenAI’s widely popular ChatGPT and Google’s Bard — is AI designed to produce content rather than simply processing information, which could have widespread effects on copyright disputes and disinformation, experts have said. Many industry experts have urged for more federal AI regulation, claiming that widespread AI applications could lead to broad societal risks including an uptick in online disinformation, technological displacement, algorithmic discrimination, and other harms. 

Some industry leaders, however, are concerned that calls for licensing are a way of shutting the door to competition and new startups by large companies like OpenAI and Google.  

B Cavello, director of emerging technologies at the Aspen Institute, said Monday that licensing requirements place burdens on competition, particularly small start-ups. 

Implementing licensing requirements can place a threshold that defines a set of players allowed to play in the AI space and a set that are not, said B. Licensing can make it more difficult for smaller players to gain traction in the competitive space, B said.  

Already the resources required to support these systems create a barrier that can be really tough to break through, B continued. While there should be mandates for greater testing and transparency, it can also present unique challenges we should seek to avoid, B said.  

Austin Carson, founder and president of SeedAI, said a licensing model would not get to the heart of the issue, which is to make sure AI developers are consciously testing and measuring their own models. 

The most important thing is to support the development of an ecosystem that revolves around assurance and testing, said Carson. Although no mechanisms currently exist for wide-scale testing, it will be critical to the support of this technology, he said. 

Base-level testing at this scale will require that all parties participate, Carson emphasized. We need all parties to feel a sense of accountability for the systems they host, he said. 

Christina Montgomery, AI ethics board chair at IBM, urged Congress to adopt precision regulation approach to AI that would govern AI in specific use cases, not regulating the technology itself in her testimony last week.  

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Artificial Intelligence

Senate Witnesses Call For AI Transparency

Regulatory AI transparency will increase federal agency and company accountability to the public.



Photo of Richard Eppink of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho Foundation

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2023 – Congress should increase regulatory requirements for transparency in artificial intelligence while adopting the technology in federal agencies, said witnesses at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Tuesday. 

Many industry experts have urged for more federal AI regulation, claiming that widespread AI applications could lead to broad societal risks including an uptick in online disinformation, technological displacement, algorithmic discrimination, and other harms. 

The hearing addressed implementing AI in federal agencies. Congress is concerned about ensuring that the United States government is prepared to capitalize on the capabilities afforded by AI technology while also protecting the constitutional rights of citizens, said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan.   

The United States “is suffering from a lack of leadership and prioritization on these topics,” stated Lynne Parker, director of AI Tennessee Initiative at the University of Tennessee in her comments. 

In a separate hearing Tuesday, CEO of OpenAI Sam Altman said that is is “essential that powerful AI is developed with democratic values in mind which mean US leadership is critical.”

Applications of AI are immensely beneficial, said Altman. However, “we think that regular intervention by governments will be crucial to mitigate the risks of increasingly powerful models.”

To do so, Altman suggested that the U.S. government consider a combination of licensing and testing requirements for the development and release of AI models above a certain threshold of capability.

Companies like OpenAI can partner with governments to ensure AI models adhere to a set of safety requirements, facilitate efficient processes, and examine opportunities for global coordination, he said.

Building accountability into AI systems

Siezing this moment to modernize the government’s systems will strengthen the country, said Daniel Ho, professor at Stanford Law School, encouraging Congress to lead by example to implement accountable AI practices.  

An accountable system ensures that agencies are responsible to report to the public and those that AI algorithms directly affect, added Richard Eppink of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho Foundation. 

A serious risk to implementing AI is that it can conceal how the systems work, including the bad data that they could be trained on, said Eppink. This can prevent accountability to the public and puts citizen’s constitutional rights at risk, he said. 

To prevent this, the federal government should implement transparency requirements and governance standards that would include transparency during the implementation process, said Eppink. Citizens have the right to the same information that the government has so we can maintain accountability, he concluded.  

Parker suggested that Congress appoint a Chief AI Director at each agency that would help develop Ai strategies for each agency and establish an interagency Chief AI Council to govern the use of the technology in the Federal government. 

Getting technical talent into the workforce is the predicate to a range of issues we are facing today, agreed Ho, claiming that less than two percent of AI personnel is in government. He urged Congress to establish pathways and trajectories for technical agencies to attract AI talent to public service.   

Congress considers AI regulation

Congress’s attention has been captured by growing AI regulatory concerns.  

In April, Senator Check Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed a high-level AI policy framework focused on ensuring transparency and accountability by requiring companies to allow independent experts to review and test AI technologies and make results available publicly. 

Later in April, Representative Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., introduced a bill that would require the disclosure of AI-generated content in political ads. 

The Biden Administration announced on May 4 that it will invest $140 million in funding to launch seven new National AI Research Institutes, which investment will bring the total number of Institutes to 25 across the country.  

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Artificial Intelligence

‘Watershed Moment’ Has Experts Calling for Increased Federal Regulation of AI

New AI developments could impact jobs that have traditionally been considered safe from technological displacement.



Screenshot of Reggie Townsend, vice president of the data ethics practice at the SAS Institute, at the Brookings Institute event

WASHINGTON, April 28, 2023 — As artificial intelligence technologies continue to rapidly develop, many industry leaders are calling for increased federal regulation to address potential technological displacement, algorithmic discrimination and other harms — while other experts warn that such regulation could stifle innovation.

“It’s fair to say that this is a watershed moment,” said Reggie Townsend, vice president of the data ethics practice at the SAS Institute, at a panel hosted Wednesday by the Brookings Institution. “But we have to be honest about this as well, which is to say, there will be displacement.”

Screenshot of Reggie Townsend, vice president of the data ethics practice at the SAS Institute, at the Brookings Institute event

While some AI displacement is comparable to previous technological advances that popularized self-checkout machines and ATMs, Townsend argued that the current moment “feels a little bit different… because of the urgency attached to it.”

Recent AI developments have the potential to impact job categories that have traditionally been considered safe from technological displacement, agreed Cameron Kerry, a distinguished visiting fellow at Brookings.

In order to best equip people for the coming changes, experts emphasized the importance of increasing public knowledge of how AI technologies work. Townsend compared this goal to the general baseline knowledge that most people have about electricity. “We’ve got to raise our level of common understanding about AI similar to the way we all know not to put a fork in the sockets,” he said.

Some potential harms of AI may be mitigated by public education, but a strong regulatory framework is critical to ensure that industry players adhere to responsible development practices, said Susan Gonzales, founder and CEO at AIandYou.

“Leaders of certain companies are coming out and they’re communicating their commitment to trustworthy and responsible AI — but then meanwhile, the week before, they decimated their ethical AI departments,” Gonzales added.

Some experts caution against overregulation in low-risk use cases

However, some experts warn that the regulations themselves could cause harm. Overly strict regulations could hamper further AI innovation and limit the benefits that have already emerged — which range from increasing workplace productivity to more effectively detecting certain types of cancer, said Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, at a Broadband Breakfast event on Wednesday.

“We should want to see this technology being deployed,” Castro said. “There are areas where it will likely have lifesaving impacts; it will have very positive impacts on the economy. And so part of our policy conversation should also be, not just how do we make sure things don’t go wrong, but how do we make sure things go right.”

Effective AI oversight should distinguish between the different risk levels of various AI use cases before determining the appropriate regulatory approaches, said Aaron Cooper, vice president of global policy for the software industry group BSA.

“The AI system for [configuring a] router doesn’t have the same considerations as the AI system for an employment case, or even in a self-driving vehicle,” he said.

There are already laws that govern many potential cases of AI-related harms, even if those laws do not specifically refer to AI, Cooper noted.

“We just think that in high-risk situations, there are some extra steps that the developer and the deployer of the AI system can take to help mitigate that risk and limit the possibility of it happening in the first place,” he said.

Multiple entities considering AI governance

Very little legislation currently governs the use of AI in the United States, but the issue has recently garnered significant attention from Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and other federal entities.

The National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee on Tuesday released a draft report detailing recommendations based on its first year of research, concluding that AI “requires immediate, significant and sustained government attention.”

One of the report’s most important action items is increasing sociotechnical research on AI systems and their impacts, said EqualAI CEO Miriam Vogel, who chairs the committee.

Throughout the AI development process, Vogel explained, each human touchpoint presents the risk of incorporating the developer’s biases — as well as a crucial opportunity for identifying and fixing these issues before they become embedded.

Vogel also countered the idea that regulation would necessarily stifle future AI development.

“If we don’t have more people participating in the process, with a broad array of perspectives, our AI will suffer,” she said. “There are study after study that show that the broader diversity in who is… building your AI, the better your AI system will be.”

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023, 12 Noon ET – Should AI Be Regulated?

The recent explosion in artificial intelligence has generated significant excitement, but it has also amplified concerns about how the powerful technology should be regulated — and highlighted the lack of safeguards currently in place. What are the potential risks associated with artificial intelligence deployment? Which concerns are likely just fearmongering? And what are the respective roles of government and industry players in determining future regulatory structures?


  • Daniel Castro, Vice President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and Director, Center for Data Innovation
  • Aaron Cooper, Vice President of Global Policy, BSA | The Software Alliance
  • Rebecca Klar (moderator), Technology Policy Reporter, The Hill

Panelist resources


Daniel Castro is vice president at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and director of ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation. Castro writes and speaks on a variety of issues related to information technology and internet policy, including privacy, security, intellectual property, Internet governance, e-government and accessibility for people with disabilities. In 2013, Castro was named to FedScoop’s list of the “top 25 most influential people under 40 in government and tech.”

Aaron Cooper serves as vice president of Global Policy for BSA | The Software Alliance. In this role, Cooper leads BSA’s global policy team and contributes to the advancement of BSA members’ policy priorities around the world that affect the development of emerging technologies, including data privacy, cybersecurity, AI regulation, data flows and digital trade. He testifies before Congress and is a frequent speaker on data governance and other issues important to the software industry.

Rebecca Klar is a technology policy reporter at The Hill, covering data privacy, antitrust law, online disinformation and other issues facing the evolving tech world. She is a native New Yorker and graduated from Binghamton University. She previously covered local news at The York Dispatch in York, Pa. and The Island Now in Nassau County, N.Y.

Graphic from Free-Vectors.Net used with permission

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