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Durbin Questions Witnesses During Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on Oversight of Artificial Intelligence

Durbin: I don’t want to repeat the mistakes of Section 230, failure to regulate Big Tech

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, questioned witnesses at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law hearing entitled, “Oversight of A.I.: Rules for Artificial Intelligence.”

Today’s bipartisan hearing, led by Senators Blumenthal (D-CT) and Hawley (R-MO), examined the development of artificial intelligence (AI) with a focus on what safeguards and oversight are necessary to minimize risks associated with the technology. The panel featured the first testimony before Congress by Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI and maker of ChatGPT.

Durbin led his questioning by asking Mr. Altman about lessons learned from Section 230 and how to hold developers of new generative AI technologies responsible for harms they cause.

Durbin asked Mr. Altman: “On a podcast earlier this year, you agreed with host Kara Swisher that Section 230 doesn’t apply to generative AI and that developers like OpenAI should not be entitled to full immunity for harms caused by their products. So, what have we learned from [Section] 230 that applies to your situation with AI?”

Altman replied: “I do think for a very new technology, we need a new framework. Certainly, companies like ours bear a lot of responsibility for the tools that we put out into the world, but tool users do as well – and also people that will build on top of it between them and the consumer. How we want to come up with a liability framework there is a super important question, and we’d love to work together.”

Durbin continued, invoking the Committee’s work to stop the exploitation of kids online: “When it came to online platforms, the inclination of the government was: ‘Get out of the way. This is a new industry. Don’t overregulate it. In fact, give them some breathing space and see what happens.’ I’m not sure I’m happy with the outcome as I look at online platforms and the harms that they’ve created.”

Mr. Altman agreed: “Me neither.”

Turning to Ms. Christina Montgomery, Vice President and Chief Privacy & Trust Officer for IBM, Durbin examined the lessons learned from the government’s failure to regulate Big Tech.

Durbin asked Ms. Montgomery: “I don’t want to repeat that mistake again. What I hear is the opposite suggestion from the private sector, and that is to come in at the front end of this thing and establish some liability standards, precision regulation. For a major company like IBM to come before this Committee and say to the government ‘Please regulate us,’ can you explain the difference in thinking between the past and now?”

Ms. Montgomery replied: “For us, this comes back to the issue of trust – trust in the technology. Trust is our license to operate, as I mentioned in my remarks. We’ve been calling for precision regulation of artificial intelligence for years now. This is not a new position. We think that technology needs to be deployed in a responsible and clear way.”

Durbin concluded by emphasizing the need for the United States to be a global leader and work to establish an international authority to regulate AI.

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.