Senators Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have jointly proposed a bipartisan bill that may carry substantial consequences for online speech and the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. The No Section 230 Immunity for AI Act seeks to specify that liability protections outlined in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act do not extend to visual content and text generated by AI.
Section 230 protects internet companies from being held liable for third-party speech posted on their platforms. However, it is unclear whether these protections extend to AI-generated content. The bill addresses this ambiguity by allowing Americans to file lawsuits against AI firms that produce damaging content, such as deepfakes.
Deepfakes are realistic-looking visual imitations that can be used for malicious purposes, including financial fraud and intellectual property theft. With the increasing prevalence of deepfakes, lawmakers are concerned about the potential risks they pose.
The bill defines generative AI as “an artificial intelligence system capable of generating audio, novel text, images, video, and other media based on prompts or other forms of data provided by a person.” This definition differentiates AI-generated content from user-generated content, protected under Section 230.
Supporters of the bill argue that AI companies should be held accountable for the harm caused by their products. They believe extending Section 230 liability protections to AI would shield tech companies from responsibility and prevent victims from seeking justice.
Nonetheless, tech experts caution that the elimination of Section 230 protections for AI-generated content might result in unforeseen repercussions. They assert that companies could grow more hesitant to train AI models with contentious material, potentially restricting the diversity of information utilized. Section 230 has been pivotal in affording legal certainty to platforms hosting contentious speech, fostering the expression of a wide range of voices.
Critics of the bill also argue that the definition of AI is too vague and broad, potentially exposing technology companies to frivolous lawsuits. They believe the legislation could have unintended consequences, such as hindering search engines, blocking spam, and removing lawful but offensive content.
Conservatives who support revoking Section 230 should be cautious, as it could affect their ability to express their perspectives online. Section 230 has significantly enabled individuals like former President Donald Trump to utilize digital platforms to reach a large audience and gain political success.
The No Section 230 Immunity for AI Act raises essential questions about the intersection of AI, online speech, and liability. As AI technology advances, policymakers must balance protecting individuals from harm caused by AI-generated content and ensuring that innovation and free expression are not stifled.