U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), in a recent hearing titled “Governing Artificial Intelligence Through Acquisition and Procurement”, expressed his profound concerns regarding the American government’s collaborations with social media platforms, utilizing artificial intelligence to potentially infringe on American civil liberties.
The concerns raised emphasize the possibility of the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens being violated through these collaborations.
During his address, Dr. Paul stated that government agencies have “spent years conducting unconstitutional surveillance and colluding with private companies to stifle the protected speech of Americans,” according to a press release from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs.
He underscored the specific actions of federal bodies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), revealing that they “used taxpayer dollars to pressure large social media platforms into moderating online discourse on topics like COVID-19 vaccines and the use of masks.”
Delving into the rapid advancements in the realm of artificial intelligence, Dr. Paul highlighted his apprehensions, noting that “the dangers of domestic censorship will only worsen with the rapid development of artificial intelligence.”
He particularly drew attention to how the same entities, which previously made attempts to curb free speech, are currently channeling public resources into the creation of AI technologies aimed at sculpting the landscape of online information.
Dr. Paul cited specific cases to substantiate his claims, pointing out that “in 2021, the Department of Defense (DOD) established a program to develop artificial intelligence tools that scale the moderation capability of social media platforms to create a ‘more stable information environment.’”
Furthermore, the Department of Defense, through initiatives like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), had made requests “to study how other countries repress their population at scale over the internet through censorship.”
The Senator didn’t stop at just highlighting the potential perils.
In his dialogue with witness Michael Shellenberger, Dr. Paul brought to light instances where the DHS exerted pressure on social media platforms to undertake actions such as content removal and deplatforming of certain individuals.
Most notably, Shellenberger called attention to “FBI payments to Twitter, intended to reimburse the company for expenses it incurred complying with government requests to suppress the Hunter Biden story.”
In the same breath, Dr. Paul acknowledged the positive aspects of AI, stating its capabilities such as “the ability to rapidly process backlogs of unclassified data” and its applications in “essential industries like healthcare and education.”
Nevertheless, he remains steadfast in his warning, emphasizing that the “potential dangers of artificial intelligence don’t stem from advanced technology but rather from an unchecked government that develops programs to amplify censorship of the American public.”
In conclusion, Dr. Paul firmly asserted that it is imperative for Congress to take decisive steps to ensure that federal agencies steer clear of “suppressing constitutionally protected speech.”
He underlined the paramount importance of cultivating AI technologies, ensuring that they are aligned with the best interests of the public, rather than as instruments of government surveillance.