Stop exaggerating about AI, US government warns tech companies

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(Image credit: Bloomberg (Getty Images))

A post on the FTC's Business Blog with the tile Keep your AI claims in check offers a warning to companies working in AI. It's a politely worded, business-friendly note from a lawyer at the USA's top trade regulator. The warning? When it comes to making claims, they need to check themselves before they wreck themselves.

The FTC acknowledges that artificial intelligence or AI has no fixed meaning in tech. It's nothing but marketing. That said, the FTC goes on to warn tech companies they need to take care when exaggerating their product's capabilities, ensure they're not saying it's better than a non-AI product, and be sure that they're aware of the risks in letting a program make calls the company will be liable for.

Oh, and they're really clear on this one: Don't say your product uses AI if it doesn't use AI. "If you think you can get away with baseless claims that your product is AI-enabled, think again," says the post by attorney Michael Atleson. He reminds businesses the FTC is allowed to take their tech apart to be sure there's AI in there, and that using AI to make something is not the same as having AI in it.

This is nothing new if you follow US business regulations, where the norm is to politely warn companies when they're approaching the edge of what they can get away with. The agency did this a couple years ago regarding automated tools that can be responsible for discrimination due to how they're programmed, informing businesses they'd be on the hook for the discrimination either way.

"AI hype is playing out today across many products, from toys to cars to chatbots and a lot of things in between. Breathless media accounts don't help, but it starts with the companies that do the developing and selling," says Atleson, later noting, "Marketers should know that — for FTC enforcement purposes — false or unsubstantiated claims about a product's efficacy are our bread and butter."

Not news to us here in videogame land, unless you're too young to remember when the FTC slapped a $2 million settlement on the maker of brain-training software and games Lumosity and had another brain-trainer developer barred from making a number of claims about their product.

"Whatever it can or can't do, AI is important, and so are the claims you make about it," says Atleson, "You don't need a machine to predict what the FTC might do when those claims are unsupported."

In other AI-related dumpster fire news: A chatbot with roots in a dead artist's memorial became an erotic roleplay phenomenon, now the sex is gone and users are rioting.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.