The EU Corralled AI With Legislation. That's Unlikely Here

Amid calls for regulation and alarm-ringing, the U.S. remains stubbornly resistant to AI federal regulation

Samara Lynn
clock • 3 min read
The EU Corralled AI With Legislation. That's Unlikely Here

The European Union just passed the AI Act—legislation regulating artificial intelligence. Under the law, AI apps used in specific verticals including health care, law enforcement and more are subject to strict oversight. Generative AI app developers are also required to be transparent about how they train their large language models and must adhere to EU copyright laws. 

The EU has proven it is willing to rein in technology more than the U.S. Look no further than its General Data Protection Regulation. Established in 2018, GDPR allows for hefty fines against tech companies that violate consumer data privacy, although there have been questions about its efficacy and some confusion over its implementation. 

Still, the EU has taken a far more proactive approach than the U.S. in its attempt to protect people from potential exploitation by tech companies. 

The U.S. has been hesitant to legislate what the tech industry can and cannot do. There are several reasons why this may be. 

First, that Wild West, "Live Free or Die" sentiment runs deep through America's veins. Birthed from revolution, our country tends to be resistant to what some may perceive as federal overreach, especially when it comes to business and making money. Arguments against stricter federal tech regulation usually warn about impeding innovation—even at the risk of imposing on consumer data privacy. 

Second, the U.S.' extremely polarized political climate creates a standstill Congress that has a hard time reaching a consensus to get any legislation passed. For instance, right now in the U.S. there is a raging debate over what to do about TikTok. The House of Representatives recently proposed legislation banning TikTok unless it divests from its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance, citing national security reasons. 

However, there are some lawmakers against the legislation, calling it "authoritarianism," The Associated Press reported. 

Third, there seems to be a general lack of understanding about technology's potential for good and harm, especially among politicians. The Harvard Gazette explored the issue of politicians and their inability to keep up with the lightning-speed changes in tech. 

Politicians, however, do talk a lot about tech. There have been numerous Congressional committees on AI: the Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus, a bipartisan Task Force on Artificial Intelligence, and President Biden issued an executive order on "new standards for AI safety and security" last year. 

Outside Congress, several organizations are speaking out on governmental regulation of AI. In a statement to MES Computing, Merve Hickok, president of the Center For AI & Digital Policy, touched on the EU's legislation and how the center is working on AI policy in the U.S.

"We have worked closely with the Parliament and the Commission throughout this process. Although there are still unresolved concerns about the use of AI systems for immigration and policing, we are very pleased with the outcome and congratulate all for this remarkable achievement. Now we must turn to the hard work of implementation and enforcement."

The U.S. and the EU work closely together to align and complement each other in AI policy and governance. President Biden has repeatedly urged for AI regulation and underlined the need for guardrails for AI systems that can impact our rights and safety. There is bipartisan agreement in Congress on the need for AI regulation," Hickok's statement concluded. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce voiced its concerns about AI  and said that regulation can help "to ensure it does not hurt growth or become a national security risk."

And several human and civil rights groups, including the Center for American Progress, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Data and Society Research Institute, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, NAACP, Public Citizen, Public Knowledge and UnidosUS, sent a letter to the White House expressing their concerns.

As AI inevitably gets smarter and more ubiquitous, it will be interesting to see how our nation's leaders respond. Hopefully, they will make moves to address the potential power of AI to affect global discourse, national elections and its ability to spread disinformation. Yet there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome. 

 

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