Durbin Questions Witness During Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing On Artificial Intelligence And Human Rights

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today questioned witnesses at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law hearing entitled, “Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights.”  After highlighting the Judiciary Committee’s work unanimously reporting five bills designed to stop the exploitation of kids online, Durbin questioned Alexandra Reeve Givens, CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology, about his Strengthening Transparency and Obligation to Protect Children Suffering from Abuse and Mistreatment Act of 2023 (STOP CSAM Act), legislation to crack down on the proliferation of child sex abuse material online.  The Center for Democracy & Technology has publicly opposed the bill.

“I heard echoes of your argument against the STOP CSAM Act in a recent interview you gave… In discussing potential liability of a platform when a generative AI tool causes harm, you noted that generative AI tools, ‘do involve users engaging in expressive conduct’… It seems as though a company that releases a tool that can clone a person’s voice should be able to predict some of the ways the tool would be misused.  And, if they don’t put sufficient safety measures in place they should be legally accountable…  I’m worried about your phrase ‘expressive conduct’ and your opposition to our bill.  Would you like to explain?” Durbin asked.

Reeve Givens responded that her organization focuses on human rights and the impact of technology.  She went on to state that when the organization answers questions about legislation, they take into account if the bill leads to “platforms who have a profit motive and who act when they’re scared of liability.” She continued to say, “we worry about the downstream effects of the ‘heavy thumb’ of regulation… We believe in every force of market pressure, encouraging [companies] to take those responsibilities deeply seriously.” 

Durbin continued, “You talk about the heavy thumb of government.  What we have now is not a heavy thumb… We stand by the sidelines and watch this poor victim and argue that we are somehow suppressing the market.  Perhaps we’re asking for accountability in the market… I just have to disagree with your premise that the market is more important than the individuals who are the victims of it.  I think asking people to be held accountable for what they have produced and what their actions result in, is as basic as justice in America.   And to say Section 230 or something like it should continue and [not] stop this child sex abuse material online exploitation, I think it goes way too far.” 

Reeve Givens responded that she is worried about protecting other users who are posting “lawful content.”

Durbin concluded, “There’s got to be a line we draw that protects the marketplace but still doesn’t exploit innocent people.”

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here.

Footage of Durbin’s questions in Committee are available here for TV Stations.