Updated Mar 19, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: AI chatbots provide inaccurate election information, Former OSTP director warns

Alondra Nelson speaks with a hand outstretched, wearing a white shirt and dark jacket speaks in front of a blue background with AXIOS written in white

OSTP Dir. Alondra Nelson speaks at Axios' What's Next Summit on March 19. Photo: Ronald Flores for Axios

AI chatbots are spitting out false election information, former OSTP Dir. Alondra Nelson told Axios' Ina Fried at the annual What's Next Summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Nelson, who helped launch The AI Democracy Projects, said the group's recent survey of election information on AI chatbots found that more than half of them churned out inaccurate information ahead of what's expected to be a closely contested presidential race.

  • "Elections officials were mortified" by the results, she said.
  • Asked about how powerful such tools, including social media, are in spreading false information, she said, "It's already happening," citing the fake Biden robocall.

The big picture: Nelson, who led work on artificial intelligence while serving as the first woman of color heading the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, emphasized the need for responsible development and use of the technology.

  • "We have the benefit of being pretty early in a moment of a new technology," she said, explaining that provides the opportunity to put in place the infrastructure, standards and regulations for "potential good outcomes."

What she's saying: Nelson said there is a lot of "well meaning discourse" around the use of AI but "we really just cannot afford to mess this up."

  • "The foundations are creaky," she said. If AI can't get "basic information" correct, that can be "a real problem for democracy."

Zoom out: Asked about the whether she thinks TikTok should be banned, Nelson said: "I think it matters who owns TikTok."

  • She said she's pro regulating social media platforms and thinks there's a need for federal privacy regulations.

Context: Nelson led the OSTP Science and Society team, which had been newly created under President Biden, and led all of OSTP for eight months after Eric Lander resigned.

Go deeper: Exclusive: OSTP official Alondra Nelson to step down

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