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2024 GOP platform would roll back tech regulations on AI, crypto

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The 2024 GOP platform looks to boost crypto, AI and Elon Musk.

For a party whose leaders, including former president Donald Trump, have often railed against Big Tech, the Republicans’ new platform has relatively little to say about tech regulation. And what it does say signals a laissez-faire if not outright cozy approach to emerging sectors that have drawn scrutiny from the Biden administration.

The 16-page platform, proposed by Trump and adopted by Republican delegates Monday ahead of next week’s Republican National Convention, calls for boosting rather than restricting cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence. “Republicans will pave the way for future Economic Greatness by leading the World in Emerging Industries,” it promises.

Critics counter that the platform’s policies could lead to harm for consumers while abetting those emerging industries’ worst actors at the expense of real innovation.

The Republican Party’s top tech priority, per the document, appears to be promoting cryptocurrency.

“Republicans will end Democrats’ unlawful and unAmerican Crypto crackdown and oppose the creation of a Central Bank Digital Currency,” the platform asserts. “We will defend the right to mine bitcoin, and ensure every American has the right to self-custody of their Digital Assets, and transact free from Government Surveillance and Control.”

Trump’s pose as the pro-crypto candidate could be a savvy move, contended Chris MacKenzie, senior director of communications at the Chamber of Progress, a left-of-center trade group that receives funding from tech companies. In an open letter on Tuesday, his group called on President Biden to support bipartisan cryptocurrency legislation that is widely viewed as industry-friendly, noting that 18 million Americans hold or trade cryptocurrency.

“We see this as an opportunity for him to … take the mantle of being the crypto-positive candidate away from Trump, who has really worked to make that part of his campaign,” MacKenzie said.

That would be misguided, some consumer advocates say.

Boosting cryptocurrency is an odd plank for a major party, given the relatively minor role it plays in the broader economy, said Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. He said its prominent place in the Republicans’ platform likely reflects the heavy lobbying effort by cryptocurrency interests, which he said is “obviously influencing politicians of both parties.”

“The enforcement standards currently being applied that Republicans propose to repeal or roll back are designed to protect Americans from scams, rip-offs and fraud, which has been prevalent in the crypto industry,” Weissman said. “Effectively this should be read as, ‘We aim to promote more fraud on everyday Americans.’”

The Republican platform also calls for repealing Biden’s executive order on AI.

“We will repeal Joe Biden’s dangerous Executive Order that hinders AI Innovation, and imposes Radical Leftwing ideas on the development of this technology,” the platform reads. “In its place, Republicans support AI Development rooted in Free Speech and Human Flourishing.”

The sweeping order, which Biden signed in October 2023, placed new safety obligations on AI developers and called on federal agencies to mitigate the technology’s risks while spurring its responsible development. My colleagues Elizabeth Dwoskin, Drew Harwell and Cat Zakrzewski reported in May that an influential tech lobbying group had been laying the groundwork for a possible future Trump administration to dismantle those rules and funnel money into AI grants and contracts instead.

But it’s not clear how many AI companies actually want the order repealed.

“For American companies to continue to grow and lead in innovation domestically and around the world, U.S. policymakers need to help set the global norms for AI,” said Julia Massimino, executive vice president for government affairs at the Information Technology Industry Council, a global tech trade association, in an emailed statement. She said the group urges policymakers to prioritize policies that “build trust in the technology” while supporting its beneficial uses.

Suresh Venkatasubramanian, a Brown University computer science professor who helped craft the Biden administration’s thinking on AI, told Tech Brief that a hands-off approach to AI development “might have made sense” in the technology’s formative years. But he said “we are well past that point today.”

“We have mountains of evidence on why and how we need to govern AI systems that affect people’s rights, opportunities, and access to vital services,” Venkatasubramanian said.

The GOP’s platform includes one more tech-adjacent priority: Bolstering commercial space exploration.

“Under Republican Leadership, the United States will create a robust Manufacturing Industry in Near Earth Orbit, send American Astronauts back to the Moon, and onward to Mars, and enhance partnerships with the rapidly expanding Commercial Space sector to revolutionize our ability to access, live in, and develop assets in Space,” the document says.

A prime beneficiary of government investment in commercial space exploration would likely be Elon Musk, the billionaire who controls SpaceX, Tesla and X. In recent years, Musk has been increasingly vocal about his conservative views, and in 2022 he urged…

Read More: 2024 GOP platform would roll back tech regulations on AI, crypto

2024-07-10 20:00:56

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