You want AI regulation? Do it right with a dedicated agency, US senators suggest

Federal Digital Platform Commission proposed as specialists to sort out the stuff other agencies can't grok

US Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Peter Welch (D-VT) proposed legislation on Thursday to create a federal agency to oversee social media platforms and the development and use of AI systems.

Under the Digital Platform Commission Act [PDF], a Federal Digital Platform Commission would coordinate with existing agencies to conduct investigations, protect folks, uphold existing antitrust laws, and even levy fines. The task force would be led by five experts appointed by the President, and would probe issues such as AI algorithms that cause harm or encourage internet addictions.

Bennet and Welch said a new agency is needed because other federal organizations, such as the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, don't have the expertise and resources to regulate technology services. Both law enforcement agencies can only tackle challenges on a case-by-case basis, so instead of being reactive, the proposed Federal Digital Platform Commission would have powers allowing it to proactively develop and enforce new policies and rules.

The senators argued that the Federal Digital Platform Commission is needed to oversee digital markets, just like there are specialized agencies that regulate other industries including food, drugs, telecommunications, and aviation.

"There's no reason that the biggest tech companies on Earth should face less regulation than Colorado's small businesses – especially as we see technology corrode our democracy and harm our kids' mental health with virtually no oversight," Bennet said in a statement.

"Technology is moving quicker than Congress could ever hope to keep up with. We need an expert federal agency that can stand up for the American people and ensure AI tools and digital platforms operate in the public interest.

"Big Tech has enormous influence on every aspect of our society, from the way we work and the media we consume to our mental health and wellbeing," Welch added. For far too long, these companies have largely escaped regulatory scrutiny, but that can't continue. It's time to establish an independent agency to provide comprehensive oversight of social media companies. I'm proud to join Sen. Bennet to introduce this important and much-needed legislation."

The bill comes days after a panel of experts from industry and academia agreed that the US government should pass new laws to regulate AI at a hearing led by the Senate's Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law. 

On Tuesday, Sam Altman, OpenAI's CEO; Gary Marcus, a retired professor of psychology and neural science at New York University, who founded AI startups; and Christine Montgomery, IBM's chief privacy and trust officer, supported the idea of a new regulatory body. There was debate, however, over how to manage and mitigate safety risks and who should oversee those issues. ®

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