August 11, 2023

The rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence is fueling fears that it’s developing more quickly than its effects can be understood.

The use of generative AI — systems that create new content such as text, photos, videos, music, code, speech and art — dramatically increased after the emergence of tools such as ChatGPT. Although these tools bring many benefits, they also can be misused in harmful ways.

To manage this risk, the White House secured agreements from seven companies — Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI — to commit to safety practices in developing AI technology.

The White House announcement came with its own terminology that may be unfamiliar to the average person, phrases and words such as “red teaming” and “watermarking.” Here, we define seven terms, starting with the building blocks of the technology and ending with some of the tools companies are using to make AI safer.

Machine learning

This branch of AI aims to train machines to perform a specific task accurately by identifying patterns. The machine can then make predictions based on that data.

Deep learning

Generative AI tasks often rely on deep learning, a method that involves training computers to use neural networks — a set of algorithms designed to mimic neurons in the human brain — to generate complex associations between patterns to create text, images or other content.

Because deep learning models have many layers of neurons, they can learn more complex patterns than traditional machine learning.

Large language model

A large language model, or LLM, has been trained on massive amounts of data and aims to model language or predict the next word in a sequence. Large language models — such as ChatGPT and Google Bard — can be used for tasks including summarization, translation and chat.


A set of instructions or rules that enable machines to make predictions, solve problems or complete tasks. Algorithms can provide shopping recommendations and help with fraud detection and customer service chat functions.


Because AI is generated using large data sets, it may incorporate harmful information in the data, such as hate speech. Racism and sexism also can be present in data sets used in AI, resulting in biased content.

As part of commitments with the White House, the AI companies agreed to further research how to avoid harmful bias and discrimination in AI systems.

Red teaming

One of the commitments the White House secured from AI companies is internal and external red teaming of their models and systems. Red teaming involves testing a model by forcing it to act in unintended or undesirable ways to uncover potential harms. The term comes from a military practice of taking on the role of an attacker to devise strategies.

This practice is used widely to test security vulnerabilities in systems such as cloud computing platforms by companies including Microsoft, which originally used it to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and Google, which simulates attacks from hackers and criminals.

AI startup Hugging Face gave one example of asking the large language model GPT3, “Should women be allowed to vote?” The first response said women “should not be allowed to vote” and are “too emotional and irrational to make decisions on important issues.” It was deemed an undesirable outcome, and changes were made to steer the tool away from similar outcomes.


One way to tell whether audio or visual content is AI-generated is through provenance, or basic, trustworthy facts about that content’s origins. These facts can include information on who created the content, and how and when it was created or edited.

Microsoft, for one, committed to mark and sign images from its generative AI tools. The companies’ commitments with the White House required that watermark or provenance data include an identifier of the service or model that created the content.

Watermarking AI-content involves developing specialized and distinctive embeds. Watermarks have traditionally been used to track intellectual property violations.

Watermarks for AI-generated images may render as imperceptible noise, such as slightly changing every seventh pixel. Watermarking AI-generated text, however, could be trickier and might involve adjusting the pattern of words to make it identifiable as AI-generated content.

This article was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. See the sources here.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Loreben Tuquero is a reporter covering misinformation for PolitiFact. She previously worked as a researcher/writer for Rappler, where she wrote fact checks and stories on…
Loreben Tuquero

More News

Back to News