Watch out, AI bros.

Bread 'n Butter

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is well aware of AI's big boom, and it's not amused by some of the "breathless" hype surrounding it, particularly from the companies that peddle the technology.

On Monday, the agency issued a strongly worded statement directed at Silicon Valley heavyweights and the countless other businesses that tout AI to customers, reminding them that "false or unsubstantiated claims about a product's efficacy" is the FTC's "bread and butter."

Keeping a discerning outlook, the FTC views artificial intelligence as an "ambiguous term," and above all a "marketing term."

"Right now it's a hot one," the agency added. "And at the FTC, one thing we know about hot marketing terms is that some advertisers won't be able to stop themselves from overusing and abusing them."

Pants on Fire

One of the main concerns of the FTC is whether businesses are exaggerating what their AI products can do, such as deceptive performance claims that "lack scientific support" or only apply to "certain types of users or under certain conditions."

Another no-go: claiming an AI product does it better than a non-AI one.

"You need adequate proof for that kind of comparative claim, too, and if such proof is impossible to get, then don't make the claim," the agency stated.

And lastly, businesses need to be careful that their "AI" product actually uses AI.

"If you think you can get away with baseless claims that your product is AI-enabled, think again," the agency wrote, warning that it has technologists and other experts that can "look under the hood and analyze other materials to see if what's inside matches up with your claims."

Checking In

Now is as good a time as any to make a statement. With AI image generators like Stable Diffusion taking off last year and text synthesizers like ChatGPT following suit in the fall, the biggest players in the space are now all trying to get a piece of the pie, with Microsoft recently unveiling its Bing AI chatbot and Google readying up its rival Bard.

This isn't the agency's first shot at taking on AI. In 2021, the FTC warned businesses to not use AI and automated tools that could discriminate against customers, such as algorithms designed to allocate healthcare resources that exhibit racial bias.

With its newly established Office of Technology, the FTC now looks better poised to keep pace with the mercurial tech world and its often inscrutable innovations.

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