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Mozilla, Center for Democracy and Technology writes letter in support of open source AI

The letter highlights the societal benefits of Open source and why Open Source AI should be prioritized.

In a letter to US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo dated March 25, 2024, many civil society organizations and academic researchers emphasized the importance of openness and transparency for AI models. Led by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), Mozilla, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and leading academics from universities like Stanford, Princeton and Harvard, the letter urged the federal government to protect openness and transparency in AI in three broad points.

The letter is a comment submitted as part of a public consultation held by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under the Department of Commerce on the risks and benefits of open-source AI models. 

The letter outlined three main points:

  • Open-source AI models provide significant societal benefits that policy should sustain and expand. Open-source software has created over $8 trillion in value and is present in 96% of commercial software. Open-source AI can similarly drive innovation, advance our understanding of AI safety through independent testing and research and make it easier for authorities to assess AI systems for compliance with privacy and civil rights regulations.
  • Policies should be based on clear evidence of marginal risks from open models compared to closed models. The risks of open models must be weighed against existing closed models and pre-existing technologies like Photoshop that already enable activities like disinformation campaigns.
  • Well-defined risks should be addressed through tailored solutions, not heavy-handed restrictions. Broad restrictions on AI models could hinder economic growth and scientific dialogue.

The letter asked the government to support more R&D in open-source AI and coordinate with the open-source community to work on better standards for testing and releasing new AI models. It also urged the Department of Commerce to ensure its forthcoming AI report and any use of export controls goes through a robust interagency process involving agencies responsible for competition, civil rights, and scientific research – not just national security bodies.

The tech industry has been grappling with the pros and cons of open-source AI. Earlier this month, entrepreneur Elon Musk launched an open source AI called Grok1, shortly after suing OpenAI for allegedly breaching an agreement to keep GPT-4 open source. In response, Open AI argued that a closed-source AI was in fact much safer than an open-source one. 


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