Opinion | Artificial intelligence could wreak havoc on elections. Congress can anticipate it.

Political ads have never been known to accurately portray candidates’ opponent, and now artificial intelligence threatens to make misrepresentations more realistic than ever. Rather than wait for AI to wreak havoc in the 2024 election, regulators, lawmakers and political parties should act now.

The last few months have shown us just how compelling AI-generated images can be. Sometimes the examples had little to do with politics—see, for example, the mock-up of the pope dressed in a ridiculously puffy white coat that fooled entire swathes of the internet this spring. Sometimes they have involved candidates but are not from competing campaigns, as is the case with doctored photos of Donald Trump being violently arrested. Yet they have also been directly employed as electoral tools.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantiss’s 2024 team posted fabricated depictions of Mr. Trump during his time as president embracing Anthony S. Fauci.

Mr. Trump, in turn, shared a parody of Mr. DeSantiss’ much-mocked campaign pitch featuring AI-generated voices mimicking the Republican governor, as well as Elon Musk, Dick Cheney, and others. And the Republican National Committee released an announcement full of false visions of a dystopian future under President Biden. The good news? The NCR included a note acknowledging that the footage was created by a machine.

Screenshots from

Announcement generated by RNC’s artificial intelligence

Freed the Republican National Committee

an April announcement fully illustrated with AI-

generated images that depicted a dystopian

future if President Biden is re-elected.

Source: Republican National Committee

Screenshot of RNC’s AI-generated announcement

The Republican National Committee posted an announcement in

April fully illustrated with AI-generated images

which represented a dystopian future if President Biden

they were re-elected.

Source: Republican National Committee

Screenshot of RNC’s AI-generated announcement

The Republican National Committee released a fully illustrated AI-generated ad in April

images that depicted a dystopian future if President Biden were re-elected.

Source: Republican National Committee

The bad news is that there’s no guarantee that disclosure will be the norm. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (DN.Y.) has introduced a bill that would require disclaimers that identify AI-generated content in political ads. This is a solid and necessary start. But better yet, the RNC, the Democratic National Committee, and their counterparts coordinating state and local races should go beyond disclosure alone, telling candidates to identify such material in all of their messages, including fundraising and awareness.

Party committees should also consider taking some uses off the table altogether. Wide-language templates can be critical for small campaigns that can’t afford to hire staff to draft fundraising emails. Even deeper operations could benefit from personalizing donor pleas or identifying likely backers. But those legitimate uses are different than faking your opponent’s gaffe and blowing it up on the Internet or paying to put it on television.

Ideally, campaigns should refrain entirely from using AI to depict false realities, including, for example, making a city overly crime-infested to criticize a sitting mayor or to pose as a motley crew of enthusiastic supporters. Similar effects could certainly be achieved with more traditional photo editing tools. But the possibility of AI evolving into an increasingly skilled illusionist, as well as the likelihood of bad actors deploying it to large audiences, means it’s critical to preserve a world where voters can (mostly) believe what they they see.

party committees Should make this rule together, signing a pact, proving that the integrity of information in the election is not a partisan issue. And honest candidates Should refrain from dishonest tricks on their own initiative. Realistically, though, they’ll need a push from regulators. The Federal Election Commission already has a book restriction that prohibits the representation of candidates in campaign ads. The agency recently blocked scrutiny of whether this authority extends to AI images. Commissioners who voted no to opening the matter up for public comment should reconsider. Even better, lawmakers should explicitly grant the agency the authority to intervene.

There are plenty of reasons to worry about what the rise of AI will do to our democracy. Persuading foreign adversaries as well as domestic evildoers not to sow discord is probably a lost cause. The platform’s job of rooting out misinformation has become all the more important now that better lies can be told to so many people for so little money and all the more difficult. Congress is working on an overall framework to regulate AI, but it will take months or even years. There is no excuse for the government not to take small steps forward on the path immediately ahead.

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Image Source : www.washingtonpost.com

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