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US Senators Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, introduced a bill in the Senate on June 14 that would remove the special protections afforded to online computer service providers under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
Today@SenBlumenthaland I introduce the first bipartisan AI bill – putting power in the hands of consumers to sue when AI harms them. It’s landmark protection for Americans, and more to come https://t.co/10rJOr5IP3
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) June 14, 2023
Section 230 refers to the text contained in heading 47, section 230 of the code, resulting from the passage of the Decency Act. In particular, it protects online service providers from liability for content posted by users. It also gives providers immunity from prosecution for illegal content, provided that a good faith effort is made to remove such content once discovered.
Opponents of section 230 argue that it exempts social media platforms and other online service providers from liability for the content they post. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled against modifying Section 230 in light of a lawsuit in which the plaintiff sought to hold social media companies liable for damages incurred as a result of the alleged posting and promotion of terrorism-related content on the platform.
According to the Supreme Court, a social networking site cannot be held responsible for offers made by the algorithms it uses to display content, just as an email or cell phone service provider cannot be held responsible for content transmitted through their services.
The Supreme Court recently punted on deciding the future of Section 230. But how long will the status quo remain in place? Next week on 6/21, join us for a discussion on this with Benjamin Wittes, @qjurecic, @tewheelsand @alexanderabdo.
— The Brookings Institution (@BrookingsInst) June 14, 2023
However, it is currently unclear whether Section 230 actually applies to generative AI companies such as Open AI and Google, makers of ChatGPT and Bard, respectively.
During a recent Senate hearing, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told US Senator Lindsey Graham that he was under the impression that Section 230 did not apply to his company. When, during the same hearing, he was pressured by Hawley, who asked Altman what he thought about a hypothetical situation where Congress “opened the doors of the courthouse” and allowed people affected by AI to testify in court, the CEO replied: “Please pardon my ignorance, can’t people sue us?”
While there is no specific language in section 230 describing generative AI, perhaps further discussions of its relationship to generative AI technologies could come down to the definition of “online service”.
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The GPT API, for example, is at the heart of countless AI services in the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry. If section 230 applies to generative artificial intelligence technologies, it may be difficult to hold businesses or individuals liable for harm caused by misinformation or bad advice derived from artificial intelligence.