Should the Federal Government Regulate Artificial Intelligence?

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Cite this Article
Alden Abbott, Should the Federal Government Regulate Artificial Intelligence?, Truth on the Market (May 29, 2024),

Artificial intelligence is in the public-policy spotlight. In October 2023, the Biden administration issued its Presidential Executive Order on AI, which directed federal agencies to cooperate in protecting the public from potential AI-related harms. President Joe Biden said in his March 2024 State of the Union Address that government enforcers will crack down on the use of AI to facilitate illegal price fixing. Congress is in the preliminary stages of considering legislation that could pave the way for future regulation of AI.

The European Union went “one better” by adopting the far-reaching AI Act in March 2024. It bans AI systems that are “considered to pose an unacceptable risk for the health, safety, and fundamental rights of individuals.” The act also regulates general-purpose AI models that can be applied to a wide variety of tasks, imposing obligations on them according to the level of risk they impose, or are believed to impose, on the public.

Should the federal government follow in Europe’s footsteps and adopt comprehensive AI regulation to forestall bad conduct? The short answer is no, not at this time.

Laws Already on the Books Discourage AI Abuses

First, keep in mind that AI, like all other technologies, is already fully subject to generally applicable U.S. criminal and civil laws.

Indeed, the 2023 AI executive order highlighted the application of these laws (which address civil rights, national security, antitrust, privacy, labor rights, health care, and foreign affairs) to challenge the full array of potential AI abuses.

This is more than rhetoric. The U.S. Justice Department (DOJ), for example, is reported to be “escalating” its antitrust probe of a criminal scheme to raise and fix rental-housing prices with the use of AI algorithmic software. And in January 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it was investigating the competitive effects of AI-related partnerships and investments.

Regulation Is the Foe of Innovation and Economic Growth