Biden aims executive order at AI safety

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
The Biden administration is regulating AI.

President Joe Biden is building on voluntary commitments he received from major tech companies to ethically and safely develop artificial intelligence (AI).

Biden has issued a wide-ranging executive order establishing standards for AI safety and security. The order follows a set of voluntary commitments Biden released in July 2023, which tech firms including Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI, Anthropic and Inflection have agreed to follow.

The standards are "the strongest set of actions any government in the world has ever taken on AI safety, security, and trust," White House deputy chief of staff Bruce Reed said in a statement.

Among other things, the order seeks to lessen the dangers of “deep fakes” that could swing elections or swindle consumers. 

“Deep fakes use A.I.-generated audio and video to smear reputations, spread fake news and commit fraud,”  Biden said at the signing of the order at the White House, reported the New York Times.  

The executive order comes as governments around the world are looking to set standards for AI. The European Union is close to finalizing a comprehensive set of regulations that address the riskiest applications of the fast-developing technology. 

Following are highlights of actions directed by the new executive order:

New standards for AI safety and security

  • Require that developers of the most powerful AI systems share their safety test results and other critical information with the U.S. government. Develop governmental standards, tools, and tests to help ensure that AI systems are safe, secure, and trustworthy. 
  • The Department of Homeland Security will apply those standards to critical infrastructure sectors and establish the AI Safety and Security Board. The Departments of Energy and Homeland Security will also address AI systems’ threats to critical infrastructure, as well as chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and cybersecurity risks. 
  • Protect Americans from AI-enabled fraud and deception by establishing standards and best practices for detecting AI-generated content and authenticating official content. The Department of Commerce will develop guidance for content authentication and watermarking to clearly label AI-generated content. 
  • Establish an advanced cybersecurity program to develop AI tools to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical software.

Protecting privacy

  • Prioritize federal support for accelerating the development and use of privacy-preserving techniques—including ones that use cutting-edge AI and that let AI systems be trained while preserving the privacy of the training data.  
  • Strengthen privacy-preserving research and technologies, such as cryptographic tools that preserve individuals’ privacy, by funding a Research Coordination Network to advance rapid breakthroughs and development. 

Supporting workers

  • Develop principles and best practices to address AI-related job displacement; labor standards; workplace equity, health, and safety; and data collection. 
  • Produce a report on AI’s potential labor-market impacts, and study and identify options for strengthening federal support for workers facing labor disruptions, including from AI.

Promoting innovation and competition

  • Catalyze AI research across the United States through a pilot of the National AI Research Resource—a tool that will provide AI researchers and students access to key AI resources and data—and expanded grants for AI research in areas like healthcare and climate change.
  • Promote a fair, open, and competitive AI ecosystem by providing small developers and entrepreneurs access to technical assistance and resources, helping small businesses commercialize AI breakthroughs, and encouraging the Federal Trade Commission to exercise its authorities.

    “The actions that President Biden directed today are vital steps forward in the U.S.’s approach on safe, secure, and trustworthy AI,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “More action will be required, and the administration will continue to work with Congress to pursue bipartisan legislation to help America lead the way in responsible innovation.”