The US House of Representatives has clearly signalled its concern about the growing use of generative AI chatbots.

Axios reported on Friday that the US Congress has set a strict ban on congressional staffers’ use of Microsoft’s Copilot generative AI assistant.

It comes after two US House of Representatives leaders in February this year began forming a bipartisan task force on artificial intelligence (AI) as efforts to push through regulations on the technology have stalled.

Image credit: Microsoft

Copilot ban

The House task force follows several high-profile forums on AI formed by the Senate in recent months.

Policymakers are concerned at potential risks in federal agency adoption of artificial intelligence and the adequacy of safeguards to protect individual privacy and ensure fair treatment.

House speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, and minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat, said the task force would study how the US can lead in AI while also studying ways of heading off potential threats including fake content, misinformation and job elimination.

Now Axios has reported that congressional staff are being banned from using Microsoft’s Copilot.

“The Microsoft Copilot application has been deemed by the Office of Cybersecurity to be a risk to users due to the threat of leaking House data to non-House approved cloud services,” the House’s Chief Administrative Officer Catherine Szpindor was quoted as saying by the Axios report

Microsoft responded to the decision by the US Congress.

“We recognise that government users have higher security requirements for data. That’s why we announced a roadmap of Microsoft AI tools, like Copilot, that meet federal government security and compliance requirements that we intend to deliver later this year,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Reuters.

The US House’s chief administrative office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reuters noted that last year two Democratic and two Republican US senators had introduced legislation to ban the use of artificial intelligence that creates content falsely depicting candidates in political advertisements to influence federal elections.

Election risk

And it seems they had a point.

In January this year, a fake robocall in US president Joe Biden’s voice discouraged voters from participating in the New Hampshire primaries.

President Biden had last October signed an executive order that aimed to set out AI safeguards.

In February 20 of the world’s biggest tech companies, including Amazon, Adobe, Google, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI, TikTok and X, vowed to take measures against the misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) to disrupt elections around the world this year.

Generative AI tools that are increasingly accessible and powerful have surged in popularity over the past year, following the debut of ChatGPT in late 2022.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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