Communications and Technology

A Free-Market Blueprint for Emerging Tech: New ALEC Model Policies on Artificial Intelligence, Social Media Education

At last month’s 50th ALEC Annual Meeting, members of the Communications and Technology Task Force advanced a slate of new, forward-looking model policies addressing many of the key tech issues lawmakers will face in the upcoming 2024 legislative sessions and beyond.

In addition to new model legislation pushing back against central bank digital currencies, reforming state software procurement rules, and clarifying the legal landscape for daily fantasy sports operators, ALEC members have proposed common sense solutions to guide policymakers on the topics of artificial intelligence (AI) and social media regulation.

In both cases, some have been quick to recommend Big Government as the ideal remedy to today’s emerging technology challenges. However, inhibiting the growth of AI with more bureaucratic red tape will only chill domestic tech innovation and restricting access to online tools could unduly limit Americans’ online speech. Embracing ALEC’s proven free-market, limited government approach to AI and social media would bolster innovation in the states and respect parental rights to make the best decisions for their own children.

A Free-Market, Light-Touch Approach to Artificial Intelligence Regulation

Nearly one year since generative AI tools like ChatGPT first captured the cultural zeitgeist and upended the national tech policy conversation, elected officials at each level of government are now moving beyond the hype and actively considering how to proceed on the subject of artificial intelligence regulation.

Following high-profile Capitol Hill hearings earlier this year, federal and state lawmakers alike have already proposed dozens of new laws and regulations targeting various aspects of AI systems and their underlying algorithms. At the state level, lawmakers have proposed dozens of AI-related bills in over half the states, while New York City enacted a controversial ordinance at the municipal level addressing purported AI bias in hiring systems.

Federal agencies, including the FTC and NTIA, have been quick to suggest new regulations are necessary to combat the risks of advanced AI (see ALEC’s public regulatory filing earlier this year). Meanwhile, the Biden White House believes an AI bill of rights is necessary to “protect the American public in the age of artificial intelligence.”

The 2024 state sessions are just around the corner. Instead of offloading this responsibility to power hungry government agencies, ALEC’s new model resolution on artificial intelligence affirms that the free market is best equipped to advance innovation, mitigate potential harms, safeguard privacy, and ensure robust competition.

The resolution further reiterates that state and federal regulators already enjoy sufficient authority to enforce existing consumer protection and anti-discrimination statutes and rejects attempts by federal, state, or municipal governments to ban AI technology altogether.

Finally, the resolution supports the position that any forthcoming federal regulations on AI must come from the people’s elected representatives in Congress and not be promulgated by federal agencies.

Promoting Digital Literacy and Social Media Curriculum in Grades 6-12

The issue of children’s online safety was a top issue across state legislatures this year and remains a critical priority for parents, educators, and government officials nationwide.

Some states, such as Virginia and Louisiana, have pursued strict age verification mechanisms designed to prevent youth access to harmful content online, while others like Utah and Arkansas enacted new laws limiting teenagers’ use of social media platforms. Last year, California installed an Age-Appropriate Design Code that imposes new privacy and data use restrictions on businesses that provide an “online service, product, or feature” that could plausibly be accessed by children.

Although these policies were often crafted with noble intentions to protect children online, some stakeholders have raised concerns about the unintended consequences of excessive government intervention in social media and even potential First Amendment concerns working through the judicial system.

Fortunately, other states like Florida are pursuing a different approach that puts parents in the driver’s seat and aims to prepare teens for the digital world. ALEC’s new model Teen Social Media and Internet Safety Act provides for new curriculum on social media and internet safety for students in grades 6-12. Such instruction would not only promote healthy online behaviors and the benefits of responsible social media use, but also teach the negative effects of social media on topics like mental health, cyberbullying, and the permanency of sharing information online.

By teaching teens how to responsibly navigate online platforms, states can partner with parents to mitigate the risks and determine the appropriate level of use for each individual child. This approach allows our kids to develop the skills they need to become productive members of our digital-first future and advance in their careers, all while avoiding the perils of ever-expanding government overreach.