FTC Chair Lina Khan urges vigilance on AI to prevent abuse

June 3, 2023

ai regulation

Despite a lack of AI-specific legislation, Lina Khan, Chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), argues that enforcement agencies should use existing laws to clamp down on problematic AI uses. 

Khan called for federal and state law enforcement agencies to be “vigilant early” to ensure AI companies comply with legislation. She argues AI isn’t exempt from current laws just because it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. 

The FTC’s role is to prevent unfair business practices – Khan drew parallels between AI and the early 2000s, when a select few companies dominated the internet and prevented smaller players from driving innovation.

Khan was controversially thrust to the center of an abuse of power probe because she allegedly discussed voting to prevent Meta from acquiring the virtual reality (VR) company Within before consulting with the FTC. 

The FTC itself has been described as a ‘rogue agency’ for what critics argue is an increasingly extreme approach to enforcing consumer protection laws. 

AI, fraud, and deception

Khan also drew attention to AI’s growing role in fraud, where scammers have used voice cloning and other deceptive tactics to trick people.

In one case, an elderly couple was called by a scammer impersonating their grandson, claiming he was in jail and needed money for bail. In another case, a scammer attempted to obtain a $1 million ransom from a mother after cloning the voice of a 15-year-old and alleging she’d been kidnapped. 

Khan highlights there are already laws designed to protect people from deception, which should be enforced against the AI industry. 

She insisted, “There is no AI exemption from laws prohibiting discrimination…As this stuff becomes more embedded in how daily decisions are being made, I think they invite and merit a lot of scrutiny. Those problems and concerns are quite urgent and I think enforcers, be it at the state level or the national level, are going to be acting.”

There’s been much discussion around introducing an ‘AI pact’ or ‘stop gap’ to curb AI development before regulations become legally binding, which could be years away. 

While AI seems to transgress current legislation, Khan encourages the use of existing laws to mitigate the technology’s immediate risks. 

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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