Biden signs sweeping executive order regulating AI

November 1, 2023

President Joe Biden is directing the U.S. government to take a sweeping approach to artificial intelligence (AI) regulation—his most significant action yet to rein in an emerging technology that has sparked both concern and acclaim, reports Crain’s New York Business.

The lengthy executive order—released on Monday, October 30—sets new standards on security and privacy protections for AI, with far-reaching impacts on companies. Developers such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google will be directed to put powerful AI models through safety tests and submit results to the government before their public release.

The rule, which leverages the U.S. government’s position as a top customer for big tech companies, is designed to vet technology with potential national or economic security risks, along with health and safety. It will likely only apply to future systems—not those already on the market—a senior administration official said.

The initiative also creates infrastructure for watermarking standards for AI-generated content, such as audio or images, often referred to as “deepfakes.” The Commerce Department is being asked to help with the development of measures to counter public confusion about authentic content.

The administration’s action builds on voluntary commitments to securely deploy AI adopted by more than a dozen companies over the summer at the White House’s request; and its blueprint for an “AI Bill of Rights,” is a guide for safe development and use.

All 15 companies that signed on to those commitments, including Adobe and Salesforce, will join the president at a signing ceremony at the White House on Monday, along with members of Congress.

Biden’s directive precedes a trip by Vice President Kamala Harris and industry leaders to attend a U.K.-hosted summit about AI risks—giving her a U.S. plan to present on the world stage.

The United States set aside $1.6 billion in fiscal 2023 for AI—a number that’s expected to increase as the military releases more detail about its spending, according to Bloomberg Government data.

“This executive order sends a critical message: … AI used by the United States government will be responsible AI,” International Business Machines Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Arvind Krishna said in a statement.

Biden also called for guidance to be issued that safeguards Americans from algorithmic bias in housing, in government benefits programs, and by federal contractors.

The Justice Department warned in a January filing that companies that sell algorithms to screen potential tenants are liable under the Fair Housing Act if they discriminate against Black applicants. Biden directed the department to establish best practices for investigating and prosecuting such civil-rights violations related to AI, including in the criminal justice system.

The order also asks immigration officials to lessen visa requirements for overseas talent seeking to work at American AI companies.

While the administration is touting its latest actions as the government’s most robust advancement of AI regulation, Congress may go further.

Biden has called on lawmakers to pass privacy legislation, though he doesn’t yet have a position on how Congress should approach comprehensive regulation of AI, the administration official said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for America to spend at least $32 billion in the coming years to boost AI research and development.

Lawmakers have been holding briefings and meeting with tech representatives, including Meta Platforms’ Mark Zuckerberg and OpenAI’s Sam Altman, to better understand the technology before drafting legislation.

Research contact: @crainsny