Leading U.S. tech companies including OpenAI, Google and Microsoft have agreed to a set of voluntary safeguards to mitigate the risks of artificial intelligence, the White House announced on Friday, an early step ahead of more formal regulations as lawmakers around the world rush to develop a coherent response to guide the fast-moving technology.
The White House said it had secured “voluntary” commitments from seven leading AI companies “to help move toward safe, secure, and transparent development of AI technology.”
Top figures from the seven companies — Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection AI, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI — are slated to meet President Joe Biden at the White House Friday, including Microsoft president Brad Smith, Meta’s global affairs chief Nick Clegg and Inflection AI chief executive Mustafa Suleyman.
The firms have pledged to share more information between themselves, governments and researchers on how they are managing the risks of AI, to invest more money in cybersecurity and to test their AI systems through a third party once released to allow them to find and fix any issues promptly.
The companies also committed to develop “robust” tools—like a “watermarking” mechanism—to let users know when content is AI generated and to prioritize research on societal risks AI poses like facilitating bias, fueling discrimination and undermining privacy.
The White House said the commitments, which the companies will follow “immediately,” underscore three principles it said are “fundamental” to the future of AI: security, safety and trust.
The companies have agreed to undertake the commitments “immediately,” the White House said.
What We Don’t Know
The White House’s announcement was more theme than substance and contained few concrete details of what the companies will actually be expected to do. Some signatories have chosen to clarify their commitment or add additional ones of their own choosing, such as Microsoft, which says it will support the development of a national registry of high risk AI systems. It’s unclear how the White House will hold companies to account as the scheme is voluntary and the announcement did not include a mechanism for enforcement. It’s also not clear whether these are the only companies approached by the White House—it’s possible absent players could have declined to participate—or whether more firms will be welcome to join at a later date.
What To Watch For
Though the White House said the voluntary commitments “mark a critical step toward developing responsible AI,” it acknowledged they are a first starting point for regulating the industry and do not obviate the need for focused legislation. “There is much more work underway” when it comes to AI, the White House said. The administration is “currently developing” an executive order and pursuing bipartisan legislation to regulate AI, the statement said, though it did not provide details on what such legislation might cover or any indication of when it might actually land.
The White House has repeatedly said regulating AI is a major priority for Biden and comes as lawmakers are scrambling to form a coherent framework to guide the fast moving technology. While developing tougher rules to rein in tech has been a staple discussion among lawmakers for years, recent advances in generative AI—tech capable of generating content like images, music, writing and data—and its rapid public uptake following the release of tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT last year have added a sense of urgency to the issue. The glacial pace of building legislation contrasts with the rapid clip of technological development and absent a coherent framework to work under tech leaders themselves have taken to asking the government for regulation as well as making their own commitments to develop the tech safely and responsibly. The vacuum, which is largely being filled by biggest industry actors, prompts worries that it will be those with a stake in the tech who serve as guiding lights in the emerging field.
Congress is racing to regulate AI. Silicon Valley is eager to teach them how. (Washington Post)