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VP Kamala Harris Suggests “AI-Enabled Mis- and Disinformation” Is an “Existential” Threat to Democracy

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US Vice President (VP) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Czar Kamala Harris railed against “AI-enabled mis- and disinformation” and pushed for protections against “potential harm” during a speech at the US Embassy in London, one day before she’s due to represent the US at the UK’s AI Safety Summit.

“President Biden and I believe that all leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector have a moral, ethical, and societal duty to make sure that AI is adopted and advanced in a way that protects the public from potential harm and that ensures that everyone is able to enjoy its benefits,” Harris said.

She continued by suggesting that “AI-enabled mis- and disinformation” is an existential threat to democracy and urging stakeholders to “consider and address the full spectrum of AI risk” to “make sure that AI is truly safe.”

Harris also noted that the Biden-Harris White House has been working closely with large artificial intelligence companies to “establish a minimum baseline of responsible AI practices.” She described these practices as “an initial step toward a safer AI future with more to come” and pushed for new AI legislation.

Harris’s comments come days after the Biden White House issued an executive order on “Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence,” which aims to give the federal government more control over AI. The executive order requires developers of certain AI systems to share data with the government and instructs the government to develop standards for AI safety, content authentication, and watermarking.

The Biden administration’s attempts to seize control of AI in the name of safety and protecting against so-called misinformation echo the sentiments of several other countries, alliances, and forums.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who was the key driver of the UK’s AI Summit, has claimed that AI brings new “dangers” and “risks” and vowed to make the UK “a global leader in safe AI.” The goals of his UK AI Summit are also geared around safety, with its aims being to “consider the risks of AI” and “discuss how they can be mitigated through internationally coordinated action.”

The Group of Seven (G7), the United Nations (UN), and the European Union (EU) have also announced various efforts that feature buzzwords like safety and push for stronger global AI governance.

This push for a global government crackdown on AI follows the surge in popularity of generative AI chatbot ChatGPT, which became the fastest-growing app of all time earlier this year. Many of the calls for restrictions on AI echo the sentiments that were expressed when Sam Altman, the CEO of Open AI (the company that created ChatGPT), made his first appearance before Congress in May.

During this hearing, lawmakers appeared to be keen to put generative AI back in the bottle and pressed Altman and the other witnesses on how generative AI could be controlled so that it can’t produce content that the authorities deem to be misinformation. Altman suggested that “the entire industry and government” work together — a suggestion that would allow OpenAI, one of the largest companies in the AI industry, to help shape the rules that it’s governed by.

Just a few months after Altman made this suggestion, many of the major proposed AI governance frameworks, including those from the US, UK, and UN, include collaboration with big AI companies as a key pillar.

This push by governments and lawmakers to use the buzzword misinformation as an excuse to censor and control AI follows their use of a similar playbook in other areas. Some of the many examples of this include their calls to censor so-called election misinformation, Covid-19 misinformation, and climate misinformation.

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