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US lawmakers advance bill to make it easier to curb exports of AI models

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to advance a bill that would make it easier for the Biden administration to restrict the export of artificial intelligence systems, citing concerns China could exploit them to bolster its military capabilities.

The bill, sponsored by House Republicans Michael McCaul and John Molenaar and Democrats Raja Krishnamoorthi and Susan Wild, also would give the Commerce Department express authority to bar Americans from working with foreigners to develop AI systems that pose risks to U.S. national security.

Without this legislation “our top AI companies could inadvertently fuel China’s technological ascent, empowering their military and malign ambitions,” McCaul, who chairs the committee, warned on Wednesday.

“As the (Chinese Communist Party) looks to expand their technological advancements to enhance their surveillance state and war machine, it is critical we protect our sensitive technology from falling into their hands,” McCaul added.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The bill is the latest sign Washington is gearing up to beat back China’s AI ambitions over fears Beijing could harness the technology to meddle in other countries’ elections, create bioweapons or launch cyberattacks.

A bipartisan group of senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, last week called on Congress to approve $32 billion in funding for artificial intelligence research to keep the U.S. ahead of China in the powerful technology.

Reuters reported this month that President Joe Biden’s administration is poised to open a new front in its effort to safeguard U.S. AI from China and Russia, with preliminary plans to place guardrails around the most advanced AI models.

U.S. officials flagged concerns over China’s “misuse” of artificial intelligence in their first formal bilateral talks on the issue in Geneva last week.

The bill, which was approved with 43 votes in favor and only 3 against, would need approval by the full House chamber as well as the Senate before it could be signed into law by Biden.

There is currently no Senate companion bill and neither Schumer’s office nor the White House immediately responded to requests for comment about whether they support the legislation. However, efforts to thwart China have become rare instances of bipartisan consensus in recent years. Reuters

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