Senators: New Agency Needed to Oversee Big Tech and AI

The senators cite social media harms on children's mental health, and potential harms from AI.

Senators: New Agency Needed to Oversee Big Tech and AI
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

WASHINGTON, January 24, 2024 – A group of bipartisan lawmakers are urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to support the establishment of a new agency to oversee large technology companies, citing past failures to protect consumers from alleged Big Tech malfeasance. 

In a Tuesday letter, senators Michael Bennett D-Colorado, Elizabeth Warren D-Massachusetts, Peter Welch D-Vermont, and Senator Lindsey Graham R-South Carolina, cited Schumer’s call to make artificial intelligence, “accountable, transparent, and secure,” and claim a new agency to regulate the technology would help, “protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.”

“Over the past fifteen years, social media platforms have wreaked havoc on our children’s mental health, undermined user privacy, and distorted market incentives… Big Tech companies have provided new vehicles for drug trafficking, harassment, and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” wrote the senators. “We believe this moment requires a new federal agency to protect consumers, promote competition, and defend the public interest.

“Now, these same companies stand to benefit from the rapid development and deployment of AI,” the senators added. “Although this technology has the potential to improve productivity and lead to new scientific breakthroughs, AI tools also threaten to exacerbate existing harms—threatening the well-being of our children and stifling economic competition”

The senators have presented federal legislation to reel-in tech firms before. The Digital Platform Commission Act, presented by Bennet and Welch in 2022, would start a federal agency to oversee and regulate large tech companies. 

In 2023, Sens. Graham and Warren proposed the Consumer Protection Commission Act, a bill which would create a “federal commission” with the power to investigate and prosecute tech companies for malfeasance related to “personal data, privacy, and online activity”

Additionally, the lawmakers pointed out that Congress has established oversight agencies for powerful industries before, citing the creation of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906 and the Federal Aviation Administration in 1958. 

There have been growing calls to regulate artificial intelligence, citing concerns the technology would displace workers. In short, many fear artificial intelligence will provide cheaper and  superior performance in fields ranging from software engineering to digital art, rendering humans obsolete in the workforce. 

In May 2023, Sam Altman, CEO of ChatGPT maker, published a letter on the company’s site, calling for a new international authority to, “inspect systems, require audits, test for compliance with safety standards, [and] place restrictions on degrees of deployment and levels of security”

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