By Nandita Bose and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden met with CEOs of top artificial intelligence companies including Microsoft and Alphabet’s Google on Thursday and made clear they must ensure their products are safe before they are deployed.

Generative artificial intelligence has become a buzzword this year, with apps such as ChatGPT capturing the public’s fancy, sparking a rush among companies to launch similar products they believe will change the nature of work.

Millions of users have begun testing such tools, which supporters say can make medical diagnoses, write screenplays, create legal briefs and debug software, leading to growing concern about how the technology could lead to privacy violations, skew employment decisions, and power scams and misinformation campaigns.

Biden, who has used ChatGPT and experimented with it, told the officials they must mitigate current and potential risks AI poses to individuals, society and national security, the White House said.

The meeting included a “frank and constructive discussion” on the need for companies to be more transparent with policymakers about their AI systems; the importance of evaluating the safety of such products; and the need to protect them from malicious attacks, the White House added.

Thursday’s two-hour meeting which began at 11:45 a.m. ET (1545 GMT), included Google’s Sundar Pichai, Microsoft Corp’s Satya Nadella, OpenAI’s Sam Altman and Anthropic’s Dario Amodei, along with Vice President Kamala Harris and administration officials including Biden’s Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Director of the National Economic Council Lael Brainard and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Harris said in a statement the technology has the potential to improve lives but could pose safety, privacy and civil rights concerns. She told the chief executives they have a “legal responsibility” to ensure the safety of their artificial intelligence products and that the administration is open to advancing new regulations and supporting new legislation on artificial intelligence.

In response to a question about whether companies are on the same page on regulations, Altman told reporters after the meeting “we’re surprisingly on the same page on what needs to happen.”

The administration also announced a $140 million investment from the National Science Foundation to launch seven new AI research institutes and said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget would release policy guidance on the use of AI by the federal government.    Leading AI developers, including Anthropic, Google, Hugging Face, NVIDIA Corp, OpenAI, and Stability AI, will participate in a public evaluation of their AI systems.

Shortly after Biden announced his reelection bid, the Republican National Committee produced a video featuring a dystopian future during a second Biden term, which was built entirely with AI imagery.

Such political ads are expected to become more common as AI technology proliferates.

United States regulators have fallen short of the tough approach European governments have taken on tech regulation and in crafting strong rules on deepfakes and misinformation.

“We don’t see this as a race,” a senior administration official said, adding that the administration is working closely with the U.S.-EU Trade & Technology Council on the issue. 

In February, Biden signed an executive order directing federal agencies to eliminate bias in their AI use. The Biden administration has also released an AI Bill of Rights and a risk management framework.

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division also said they would use their legal authorities to fight AI-related harm.

Tech giants have vowed many times to combat propaganda around elections, fake news about the COVID-19 vaccines, pornography and child exploitation, and hateful messaging targeting ethnic groups. But they have been unsuccessful, research and news events show.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons, Gerry Doyle and Jonathan Oatis)

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