COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s General Assembly is forming a standing committee focused on cybercrime and artificial intelligence that will explore the impact the rapidly evolving technologies will have on the Palmetto State.
The 19-member body, announced by House Speaker Murrell Smith’s office Nov. 13, will examine everything from the external impacts of artificial intelligence on the state’s economy to vetting legislation.
Also, to assist in the emergence of the technology in South Carolina as it begins to assume a more prominent role in global society.
“Only through careful examination and understanding can we ensure that these innovations are harnessed for the betterment of society, safeguarding the rights and well-being of South Carolina’s citizens first and foremost,” Smith said in a news release announcing the committee.
Other state legislatures have already formed committees dedicated to policymaking specifically around artificial intelligence technology.
California, home of most major tech companies, became the first in 2021. Colorado and Minnesota have established task forces within existing committees in their respective legislatures to recommend policies to state agencies designed to address the impacts of A.I.
Louisiana and Massachusetts also have joint committees dedicated to policymaking around A.I.
South Carolina’s committee will work a little differently. State Rep. Jeff Bradley, R-Hilton Head Island, who will lead the committee once it convenes after the 2024 legislative session, said his committee will be the first in the nation with the power to bring and propose legislation. The demand, he said, came directly from an industry that is still awaiting a comprehensive framework on A.I. technology from the federal government.
After being approached by lobbyists for Microsoft, Bradley said he and fellow Beaufort Rep. Shannon Erickson met with Smith’s office to explore the possibility of forming a committee specifically tailored to regulating A.I. as much as it is with enabling it by providing them with the regulatory certainty the industry needs for the future.
The committee will also be tasked with ensuring the advancement of A.I. is equitable for the state’s economy through legislation and is regulated enough to ensure possible crimes that could be perpetrated with A.I. are met with an appropriate response from law enforcement. Examples include exploiting algorithms to win elections or using the technology to impersonate other people to create “deepfake” pornographic content.
“We’re not really interested in trying to squelch it as much as make sure that we protect our people from some of the stuff that’s coming along,” said Bradley.
Though the committee won’t officially start work until the 2025 legislative session, Bradley said the committee is already working on hiring staff and establishing a policy agenda.
In recent months, Bradley said he and Erickson have met with firms like Amazon Web Services, Google, Facebook and IBM to begin formulating a policy slate, at one point even traveling to Palo Alto, Calif., to meet with officials at tech giant Apple.
Bradley said the committee plans to meet with officials from the state’s technical colleges in an attempt to find ways to maximize the use of A.I. for job training and other applications.
Some bills that would fall under their purview, Bradley said, could begin emerging in the 2024 legislative session, though it is unclear what committee might handle them. (One pending bill regulating social media sponsored by Upstate Republican Sen. Danny Verdin last session, for example, was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee).
For Bradley, who currently serves as chair of the House Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee, his group is also tasked with charting a map for the entire Palmetto State as it enters what some consider a new epoch for the human race.
“This is kind of a fantastical statement, but some people say that A.I. has the possibility of being as significant as the wheel on the advancement of civilization,” said Bradley. “We don’t know how big it can be. We just don’t want to roll over South Carolinians. It’s going to be a brave new world.”