On 1 and 2 November 2023, world leaders, politicians, computer scientists and tech executives attended the global AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park in the UK. Key political attendees included US Vice President Kamala Harris, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Industry leaders also attended, including Elon Musk, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky, and Microsoft president Brad Smith.
Day 1: The Bletchley Declaration
On the first day of the summit, 28 countries and the EU signed the Bletchley Declaration (“Declaration”). The Declaration establishes an internationally shared understanding of the risks and opportunities of AI and the need for sustainable technological development to protect human rights and to foster public trust and confidence in AI systems. In addition to the EU, signatories include the UK, the US and, significantly, China. Nevertheless, there are notable absences, most obviously, Russia.
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On 19 September 2023, the UK Parliament passed the Online Safety Bill (“OSB”). The OSB aims to protect individuals from illegal online content and focuses on the protection of children by requiring the removal of content that is legal but harmful to children. For example, social media platforms will be required to act rapidly to prevent children from viewing illegal material, or content that is harmful to them, such as pornography, online bullying, and the promotion of suicide, self-harm or eating disorders. The definition of illegal content covers content that is already unlawful under existing legislation, such as terrorism, hate speech and child sexual exploitation, and introduces new offences relating to more recent online phenomena such as revenge pornography, and ‘upskirting’ and ‘downblousing’ images. This is one of the most significant pieces of UK legislation post-Brexit and shows a distinctly UK approach to online harms, which businesses operating globally will need to comply with. This will need to be reviewed in parallel with the EU Digital Services Act, which has similar goals in making Europe a safe online environment.
A date for Royal Assent (when the OSB will become law) is expected shortly. The OSB’s wide scope makes it likely to result in implementation problems and potential challenges resulting from the impact the OSB is likely to have on freedom of expression and personal privacy. The underlying principles of the OSB are very different to those familiar with US laws and the constitutional protections for free speech. The risks of non-compliance will be significant, with extremely high potential fines of up to 10% of a company’s global revenue.
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