WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed concerns about the U.S. government using artificial intelligence for applications that would infringe on American civil liberties during a hearing titled “Governing Artificial Intelligence Through Acquisition and Procurement.” During the hearing, Dr. Paul highlighted multiple instances where federal agencies used tax dollars to collude with social media companies to violate the First Amendment rights of American citizens.
Dr. Paul spoke about how government agencies have spent years conducting unconstitutional surveillance and colluding with private companies to stifle the protected speech of Americans. Federal agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), used taxpayer dollars to pressure large social media platforms into moderating online discourse on topics like COVID-19 vaccines and the use of masks. Dr. Paul pointed out that the dangers of domestic censorship will only worsen with the rapid development of artificial intelligence. The same agencies that have continuously worked to censor free speech are now using public funds to develop artificial intelligence technologies intended to shape information online. For example, in 2021, the Department of Defense (DOD) established a program to develop artificial intelligence tools that scale the moderation capability of social media platforms to create a “more stable information environment.” Additionally, through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the DOD asked for proposals to study how other countries repress their population at scale over the internet through censorship.
Dr. Paul further discussed government censorship with witness Michael Shellenberger, who exposed DHS efforts to pressure social media companies to remove posts and deplatform individuals. Mr. Shellenberger called attention to FBI payments to Twitter, intended to reimburse the company for expenses it incurred complying with government requests to suppress the Hunter Biden story. Dr. Paul also spoke about the potential benefits of artificial intelligence applications, such as the ability to rapidly process backlogs of unclassified data and essential industries like healthcare and education. The potential dangers of artificial intelligence don’t stem from advanced technology but rather from an unchecked government that develops programs to amplify censorship of the American public. Ranking Member Paul stressed that Congress should prevent federal agencies from suppressing constitutionally protected speech, and he highlighted the necessity of developing artificial intelligence technologies with the public’s best interest in mind, rather than for government surveillance.