Hawley’s bill: AI firms to account for users’ harmful content.

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has proposed a bill that would make tech companies liable for harmful content produced by artificial intelligence (AI). The legislation, dubbed the “No Section 230 Immunity for AI Act”, seeks to strip AI of its Section 230 protections under the Communications Decency Act. This law currently protects tech platforms from being held legally responsible for third-party content.

  • The proposed bill could make large technology companies liable for content produced by AI in response to user prompts.
  • The proposed legislation does not specify the applications of AI that would be impacted by the change.
  • Lawmakers have faced difficulty in agreeing on how to revise Section 230 without negatively impacting the internet as it currently operates.

Presenting his legislation to the U.S. Senate, Senator Hawley highlighted the importance of protecting children from harmful content, one of the core reasons Section 230 was enacted in 1996. “Let’s give parents the right to protect their kids,” Hawley said. “Let’s make it clear that the biggest technology companies, with all of the inside access to the White House and this body and everywhere else, that they’re not a government unto themselves, that they don’t run this country.”

However, critics of the bill, including Senator Ted Cruz, have raised concerns over the potential harm to innovation and competitiveness. Cruz stated that such regulation could result in other countries advancing in AI technology at a faster pace than the US, pointing out that American AI companies received more than 14 times the investment of Chinese AI companies last year.

Jared Schroeder, a professor of media law at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, expressed concern over the vagueness of the legislation, and the potential ripple effects it could have on the functioning of social media as a whole, due to the heavy reliance on algorithms.

While there is bipartisan support for revising Section 230, lawmakers have yet to agree on how to do this in a way that will not dismantle internet practices. Even the US Supreme Court has avoided rulings that would alter Section 230, but Schroeder feels this could change soon, citing the five social media cases on the docket this term.