Josh Hawley wants the government to shut down AI

Senator Josh Hawley (RMo.) has cultivated a reputation as one of the most technology-phobic lawmakers in the federal government. Of course, he’s now setting his sights on artificial intelligence (AI), a technology he describes as dangerous and likely to “manipulate” Americans unless it’s subject to overwhelming regulatory burdens.

In a recent interview with Fox News, Hawley said he’s “concerned about the power of AI to manipulate our attention, manipulate our opinions, and manipulate the information we’re fed.”

His solution is for the government to increase the liability incurred by companies that use AI, so that they can be sued by users for committing misinformation. What constitutes disinformation, of course, is open to interpretation. As usual, Hawley’s approach wouldn’t actually protect users of the new AI technology from harm in this case. Rather, it would create opportunities for costly and constant litigation to cripple the technology.

“You can already see these generative AI systems, these large language models being trained on all the information on the internet,” Hawley said.

Hawley was probably referring to ChatGPT, an AI chatbot that can mimic human conversation. This is a tool that, yes, I could be used for most technological advances but also has the ability toimprove understanding, communication and human realization. (Reason(‘s Fiona Harrigan used it to plan dinner.) And even if the term itself TO THE can conjure up scary images from sci-fi dystopias along the lines of TerminatorANDThe matrixit is important to note that ChatGPT is notthoughtfor himself in any appreciably sinister way; it is essentially an online encyclopedia with an incredibly large archive, and its answers are guided by suggestions given to it by humans.

Yet Hawley fears technologies like this are being used to monopolize human attention spans. His concern that AI is being used to “misinform” Americans demonstrates that the overblown threat of disinformation isn’t just a forte of traditional Democrats. The First Amendment, thankfully, prohibits the government from censoring speech that purportedly misinforms the public.

Hawley’s overarching anti-tech agenda overlaps neatly with Democratic regulatory priorities. Both Republicans and Democrats have joined together to call for the repeal of Section 230, which would subject social media platforms to greater accountability for user-generated speech. Progressive Democrats favor this approach to force tech companies to moderate more content. Republicans, on the other hand, think Facebook and Twitter are already moderating too much content and are willing to punish companies even if it means giving Democrats exactly what they want: increased online censorship.

This strategy has become even more blatantly flawed in recent times. Twitter’s new CEO, Elon Musk, is transforming the site into a space that especially welcomes conservative content. But it’s Section 230 that authorizes Musk to allow The Daily Threadand Tucker Carlson to host their programming on Twitter. Scrapping the federal statute would increase Twitter’s accountability, making social media’s post-a-will protocols unsustainable.

Yet Hawley is pushing an agenda to subject AI, social media companies and the broader tech sector to greater government scrutiny, which he describes as putting “more power in the hands of individual Americans to say, ‘I will hold you accountable if you come after me, if you manipulate me.'”

More regulation does not make technology more accountable to users. It makes technology more accountable to federal politicians and bureaucrats, many of whom mistakenly believe the Internet would be a better place if people and chatbots were less free to talk.

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