Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the CNN Presidential Debate at the CNN Studios on June 27, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Trump pledges to ax Biden’s AI-safety order

The newly adopted Republican platform says the executive order "hinders AI Innovation."

A promise to repeal the Biden administration’s artificial intelligence executive order is tucked inside former President Donald Trump’s platform, adopted by the Republican National Committee on Monday.

The sweeping executive order, signed last fall, established a raft of to-do items for federal agencies and AI designers, including requirements for developers of dual-use foundation models to share safety test results and other information with the government under the Defense Production Act. 

The order has already resulted in guidance directing federal agencies to establish guardrails for the government’s use of AI systems in high-risk contexts like government benefits, as well as a final rule on the application of nondiscrimination requirements in health programs to AI systems.

But the 2024 Republican platform calls the order “dangerous.”

“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 document states. “In its place, Republicans support AI Development rooted in Free Speech and Human Flourishing.”

Trump previously promised to repeal the order at a campaign rally late last year, where he also pledged to “ban the use of AI to censor the speech of American citizens on day one,” according to the Washington Examiner.

Social media content moderation — and the ability of federal agencies to communicate with social media companies about disinformation — has been a political sticking point, but the issue is not tackled in the executive order, other than a push for watermarking and standards for AI-generated content.

Biden’s AI-focused executive order has bipartisan support, said Divyansh Kaushik, a senior fellow at American Policy Ventures. Still, some tech companies and Republicans are seeking to derail the use of the Defense Production Act according to reporting from Politico. The Washington Post has also reported on efforts from Silicon Valley to undo Biden rules on AI under a possible Trump win.

But “I think you will see that if you actually get down in the details… a lot of people will actually agree with what is in the executive order,” said Kaushik, who characterized the executive order as largely being focused on “information gathering” as opposed to the creation of new regulatory burdens.

Ipsos polling last fall found that over 70% of Democrats and Republicans supported many of the initiatives in the executive order, such as developing standards, tools and tests to make sure that AI systems are safe, secure and trustworthy. 

Policies to expand the ability of highly-skilled immigrants to come to the United States saw less Republican support — 39% — as did policies to address AI in criminal justice and healthcare contexts and increase funding for AI research.

Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, told Nextgov/FCW in a statement that the GOP platform “is an unsurprising response to the Biden administration’s move to exert so much unilateral authority over AI policy through a massive 110-page executive order.”

“That move quickly politicized this issue and derailed the bipartisan momentum for legislative action, which had been growing until then,” he said. “The White House should have worked with Congress on AI policy before blazing its own regulatory trail."

As for a potential Trump White House repealing the order, agencies would have to go through rulemaking to revoke any final rules that have been put in place following the Biden order, said Kaushik, who said that any revocation of the order could also have implications for future policymaking. Congress has yet to take any substantial action to legislate around the technology. 

“If we do away with the information gathering pieces of the executive order, then we won't really have the right information to go out and engage in the next steps of designing good regulation or designing good legislation around this,” said Kaushik.

A tech trade association source, who asked not to be named so that they could speak freely, told Nextgov/FCW that it could be difficult to reverse the order because many deadlines for requirements have already passed. With the exception of the ongoing reporting requirements under the Defense Production Act, “the impact will likely be inconsequential,” they said.

Among the remaining deadlines are requirements to align government contracts with the AI guidance by late September. Other requirements aren’t due until June of next year.

David Brody, managing attorney for the Digital Justice Initiative at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, pointed to the benefits from the administration’s guidance to federal agencies on their own use of AI.

“The AI EO requires federal agencies to examine the algorithmic systems that they use and to test them for inappropriate biases,” he said in a statement. “If this EO is revoked, agencies will be flying blind as to whether their algorithmic systems actually work as intended or are merely making decisions based on race or sex.”

Brian Chen, policy director at nonprofit Data & Society, also panned the idea of rolling the order back, calling it “an abysmal policy decision” in a statement. 

“AI is harming people now, foreclosing opportunities and undermining their rights and freedoms in the workplace, schools, the housing market, the financial sector, the criminal legal system, and at the border,” he said.

The RNC did not provide additional information about why the platform calls for the repeal of the order specifically and what AI policies the party does support. The Trump campaign did not respond to request for comment.