UK Online Safety Bill to Regulate AI Chatbots

UK Online Safety Bill to Regulate AI Chatbots

The UK is planning to subject artificially intelligent (AI) chatbots to regulation under the Online Safety Bill currently going through parliament, reports The Telegraph.

Proposed new internet legislation will regulate search results generated by AI chatbots and the content posted to social media by them. The regulation is needed to prevent tech firms from displaying harmful content, particularly to children, says Lord Parkinson, a junior minister in the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport.

“The Online Safety Bill has been designed to be technology-neutral to future-proof it and ensure the legislation keeps pace with emerging technologies,” stated the minister.

The regulator is keen to ensure a proper framework to operate the new technology by including bots in the laws. The bill guarantees punishment for developer companies who promote self-harm or eating disorder content to children.

ChatGPT’s successful launch in November has seen the tech industry embrace the era of AI chatbots, with industry leaders integrating the tech into their products. Microsoft has incorporated ChatGPT into its search engine Bing, while Google has announced a similar product called Bard.

Two Chinese companies, Baidu and Alibaba, are also reportedly developing their own AI chatbot projects.

However, the output of such bots has raised concerns among authorities, specifically by generating wrong answers and showing political bias.

“Content generated by AI ‘bots’ is in scope of the Bill where it interacts with user-generated content, such as on Twitter,” said Parkinson in answer to a parliamentary question from Labour Peer Lord Stevenson.

AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT have the ability to generate responses that sound natural and can even write code for complex computing programs.

‘Regulation will be critical’

Addressing the demand for regulation, European lawmakers are expected to approve the draft for AI regulation in March, as previously reported by MetaNews. However Sam Altman, the CEO of ChatGPT’s creator OpenAI, warned that regulating it would be critical.

Altman recognizes that the impact of artificial intelligence could “potentially be scary” and that society needs time to adapt to the significant changes it brings. However, he also acknowledged the mostly positive changes AI can bring about in the future, stressing that regulating it would be “critical.”

“We also need enough time for our institutions to figure out what to do. Regulation will be critical and will take time to figure out; although current-generation AI tools aren’t very scary, I think we are potentially not that far away from potentially scary ones,” tweeted Altman.

The debate over the regulation of AI is all around us, from social media to parliament, with one Twitter user professing doubt about “how we would usefully regulate AI.”

“Regulation has made a difference with nuclear, but it’s much less clear how we would usefully regulate AI,” tweeted Elissa Shevinsky.

Critics of the bill have claimed it poses a risk to freedom of expression. Mark Johnson, Legal and Policy Officer of civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said in November that the government’s “revival of plans to give state backing for social media companies’ terms and conditions in the Online Safety Bill is utterly retrograde, brushes aside months of expert scrutiny, and poses a major threat to freedom of speech in the UK.”

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.