Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the potential to be the biggest technological development since the inception of the internet. We’ve only scratched the surface of what this technology can do, but AI is already breaking barriers in the financial, auto manufacturing, and health care industries, all of which are critical to the Tennessee economy. 

While AI can be used for tremendous good, it can and has already been exploited by bad actors. Communist China is pouring tremendous resources into this technological breakthrough with the goal of controlling the AI market by 2030. This poses a risk to people all over the world, but especially those suffering under the authoritarian policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Government strongmen use facial recognition technology, as part of a vast network of millions of surveillance cameras, to track and control 11 million Uyghur Muslims. In Hong Kong, freedom fighters who attend anti-CCP protests are identified, tracked, and threatened through the use of this same technology. 

Meanwhile, Beijing is using AI to bolster its military. Unbelievably, the Chinese Navy is on track to have 150 more ships than the U.S. by 2028. The People’s Liberation Army is developing “cognitive warfare” tactics and using AI to run influence campaigns against enemy soldiers and civilians alike.  

Beijing is also using AI to directly target Americans. Their generative AI models push propaganda to millions of American users on TikTok. Microsoft recently released a report that showed how the CCP is weaponizing AI to influence elections in the U.S. by creating fake Chinese-controlled social media accounts that mimic U.S. voters. This poses a grave threat to democracy. 

AI is even allowing the CCP to expand its influence globally. Companies from China and Saudi Arabia are partnering on AI, and Beijing is providing its technical expertise in order to help the Saudis develop an indigenous AI model. The fact that the Saudis are working so closely with America’s greatest adversary should be deeply worrying to the U.S. 

And of course, where China goes, the rest of the New Axis of Evil is sure to follow. We can be confident that Russia, Iran, and North Korea are standing ready to exploit any advantage and join China in replacing the U.S. as the dominant global superpower. We can’t let that happen, which means that it’s past time for Congress to intervene. The first step is to implement a national data privacy law that will protect consumer data from AI-driven scraping operations. By establishing a comprehensive standard, we can set boundaries for data collection and sharing and maintain consumer privacy, while still encouraging innovation. The U.S. must also continue to prevent China from accessing domestically manufactured chips used to train AI and ban TikTok and its constant stream of propaganda. 

Having already adopted comprehensive privacy legislation, the European Union is further along in grappling with AI, which means the United States is playing catchup in the world’s hottest policy debate. We cannot let Beijing win the AI race. America’s position as the world superpower is at stake. I will continue to work with my colleagues in Washington to develop a plan for how Congress will facilitate domestic innovation in AI and hamper China’s ambitions in this critical technology.

Tennessee United States Senator Marsha Blackburn and her husband Chuck live in Williamson County, Tennessee. They have two children, Mary Morgan (Paul) Ketchel and Chad (Hillary) Blackburn, two grandsons, and a granddaughter. 

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