House Committee Tackles Emerging Issues with Artificial Intelligence

The Illinois House Judiciary Committee held a meeting in early November to receive additional input and consider possible solutions to the fast-rising concerns and issues brought about by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Lawmakers heard from experts in the acting industry, academia, legal, and business communities about the exploding growth of AI, with two panels providing testimony and answering questions for over three hours. Comparisons to the rise of social media were made, and lawmakers are wary of making the same mistakes again. 

“When social media was in its infancy, lawmakers decided to take a hands-off approach when it comes to regulation,” stated Committee Chair Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz. “The lack of regulatory action has led to a tangled web of social media ills. Social media has become a ‘Wild West’ scenario, where content is designed to mesmerize and addict children and adults alike.” 

Later, Gong-Gershowitz added, “It is our responsibility to establish guardrails and other mechanisms to protect individuals and society at-large from emerging threats related to AI while also nurturing the positive impacts of this technology.” 

Illinois lawmakers passed the Digital Forgeries Act last spring, which was an initial step to crack down on the harmful use of digital forgeries, known as deepfakes. These digitally altered images can make it look like someone is doing or saying something they aren’t. The legislation focused on digital forgeries of sexual images and allowed people to take legal action against someone who knowingly creates or distributes a deep fake without the person’s consent. This includes those who are trying to cause harm to someone else. 

Representatives from SAG-AFTRA Chicago testified how AI poses a threat to their livelihoods. Their voice and likeness are out in the public sector and can be stolen and used without their consent, and legal protections are needed, they argued. Corporations could choose to use robots and save money, and in those scenarios there would be ripple effects. Other careers, such as makeup artists, script writers and those in related fields, could see their jobs jeopardized. AI could take over the entertainment industry without government regulation, representatives from SAG-AFTRA added. SAG-AFTRA is a union that represents actors, announcers, recording artists and other entertainment and media officials. 

AI poses wide-ranging online threats in the areas of disinformation and pornography. Celebrity pornographic deepfakes are an especially common problem, and there are concerns about how AI-based tools could be used to clone voices and images to impersonate candidates in the 2024 elections.  

ChatGPT, a natural language processing tool driven by AI-based technology, can be used to generate articles and research while also answering questions and assisting with tasks. ChatGPT is considered by many to be the fastest growing consumer-facing app in history after it hit 100 million monthly users in just two months. With the public already using this type of generative AI service on a regular basis, legitimate concerns need to be discussed and potentially addressed legislatively. 

The Biden administration recently announced executive actions to try and establish oversight for the AI industry. “The executive order is very comprehensive,” stated Yanhui Guo, an associate professor at UIS. “It includes almost every AI in the AI regulation and AI research areas. As a researcher in the area, I suggest we can put more resources to do some research on AI models.” 

In the coming years, there is a likelihood that AI innovations will cost some people their jobs. “While I would love to guarantee everyone’s job going forward, it is just not how the world has ever worked,” stated Rep. Dan Ugaste (R-Geneva). “Every time we have innovation, as simple as innovation on trains, unfortunately someone has lost a job.” 

A task force has been created in Illinois to examine the impact of AI and its role in a wide range of areas. The group is expected to recommend legislation or regulations related to technology to protect people’s information. 

“The right to control our image is something far more important and essential to what it means to be a human as this technology rapidly evolves,” Gong-Gershowitz concluded.