Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is very concerned about the power of Artificial Intelligence to "manipulate Americans and the "facts" they are given from the technology on a daily basis.
"I'm worried about AI's power to manipulate our attention, to manipulate our opinions and to manipulate the information that we're given," he told Fox News Digital in a recent in-person interview.
The Missouri senator, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, continued, "Already you can see these generative AI systems – these large language models – that are trained on all the information on the internet."
He added, "You can train them on your own. You can upload your own writing and train them on your writing."
Hawley said that AI technology can "quickly can figure out what holds your attention – what you find engaging."
He also said, "Imagine that technology put to use by corporations or government to get our attention, to keep our attention and then to try and manipulate us on any number of subjects."
The Missouri senator called the prospect "extremely, extremely dangerous."
The power has to be "put in the hands of everyday Americans," said Hawley, to "protect their information and to protect their opinions."
Saying that there are a number of things as a nation we can do to curtail the power of AI, Hawley added that "one thing I for sure would do is to give everyday individual Americans the right to sue these companies that use AI — if [users] are misinformed in any way."
He added, "I think we've got to redress the balance."
Corporations and the government are going to have "so much power with this technology," Hawley emphasized.
"We've got to put more power in the hands of individual Americans to say, ‘I will hold you accountable if you come after me, if you manipulate me [and] if you try to curtail the information I can get.'"
He continued, "We see it already with the social media companies."
Those companies have "powerful algorithms" that know exactly what individual consumers want, he noted, "based on our clicks, our ‘likes.’"
He said, "So now imagine the power of AI behind that to grab our attention, keep our attention and keep us engaged."
He added, "If you think we've got a problem now with adults and especially young people spending gobs of time online – just wait."
The main concern is that these companies have all the power, the senator said.
"We have no power," he emphasized.
Sen. Hawley noted that "anybody who's been censored" knows this firsthand, whether they have been deplatformed or shadow-banned on Twitter.
"Can you sue them, now? Can you do anything about it? No, [and] we have to change that," he said.
The way to do that, he said, is to "repeal section 230 that gives those companies an immunity that no other media company has."
Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 protects a provider or user of an interactive computer service (e.g., social media company) from "liability for screening or blocking objectionable content," according to Congress.gov.
In October 2021, Sen. Hawley co-sponsored a bill (S. 2972) repealing this section of the Communications Act, along with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., notes Trackbill.com.
Hawley continued to Fox News Digital, "So we should repeal that special deal that the big tech companies get – and put power back in the hands of individual Americans, to protect their rights."
In a May 16 AI Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Sen. Hawley asked witnesses about AI's potential infringement on "consumer privacy, potential manipulation of personal behavior and opinions," and brought up the specter of AI posing "threats to election integrity," his official Senate webpage reveals.
Hawley said in the hearing, according to his web page, "I want to think about this in the context of elections … Should we be concerned about models that can … predict survey opinion and then can help organizations, entities fine tune strategies to elicit behaviors from voters?"
He added, "Should we be worried about this for our elections?"