White House Eyes AI, Algorithmic Regulation

An artificial intelligence robot touching a futuristic data screen.
(Image credit: Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images)

he Biden administration is looking to potentially regulate artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithmic processes.

On Tuesday (April 11), the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), the White House’s chief communications policy advisory arm, put out a request for comment on just how that might come about.

“While people are already realizing the benefits of AI, there are a growing number of incidents where AI and algorithmic systems have led to harmful outcomes,” the NTIA said in issuing the request for public comment. The agency is also looking to head off potential problems, adding, “There is also growing concern about potential risks to individuals and society that may not yet have manifested, but which could result from increasingly powerful systems.”

Among the government policies NTIA wants input on are “how can regulators and other actors incentivize and support credible assurance of AI systems along with other forms of accountability?” and “what different approaches might be needed in different industry sectors?”

Assistant Commerce Secretary Alan Davidson, administrator of the NTIA, said the “enormous benefits” of AI would only be realized if the government addresses potential harms through “AI audits, risk and safety assessments, certifications and other tools” that foster trust in those powerful systems.  

Comments to NTIA will be due 60 days after publication of the notice in the Federal Register, which usually takes a couple of weeks.

The online ad community has been the target of Washington concern over the potential for algorithmic discrimination.

In October 2022, the White House, calling it part of the president’s effort to “hold Big Tech accountable” issued a blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights for applying equity and “ethical forethought” to the design of algorithms in the face of what it called the threat from unchecked automated systems.

The NTIA’s signal that some government oversight of AI and Algorithms could be coming should be no big surprise.

In unveiling that bill of rights, the NTIA made it clear it saw a big problem that needed fixing.
“Algorithms used across many sectors are plagued by bias and discrimination,” the White House said at the time, “and too often developed without regard to their real-world consequences and without the input of the people who will have to live with their results.”

The Federal Trade Commission has also been “exploring rules to curb commercial surveillance, algorithmic discrimination, and lax data security practices that could violate Section 5 of the FTC Act,” the White House said at the time.

Tech policy think tank the Center for Data Innovation, urged regulatory caution.

"The growing chorus raising the alarm about AI systems threatens to lure the Biden administration into embracing rules that steer away from the United States’ historically innovation-friendly approach to the digital economy," said Hodan Omaar, senior policy analyst at the center. "Deviating from this path poses a serious risk to U.S. innovation and competitiveness."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.