The struggle to guardrail the use of AI in elections has begun

The struggle to guardrail the use of AI in elections has begun

In Toronto, a candidate pledging to clean up homeless camps in this week’s mayoral election released a set of campaign promises illustrated by artificial intelligence, including simulated dystopian images of people camping on a city street and in a park. A fabricated image of the tent set up is included. ,

Posted by a political party in New Zealand a realistic looking rendering Photo of fake robbers robbing a jewelry store on Instagram.

In Chicago, the runner-up in the mayoral election in April complained that a Twitter account posing as a news outlet cloned his voice using AI in a way that suggested he condoned police brutality Was.

What began a few months ago as a slow process of AI-generated fundraising emails and promotional images for political campaigns has turned into a steady stream of campaign materials created by the technology, which are being used by political leaders for democratic elections around the world. Rewriting the playbook.

Increasingly, political consultants, election researchers and lawmakers say that setting up new guardrails, such as legislation reining in artificially generated ads, should be an immediate priority. Existing defences, such as social media rules and services that claim to detect AI content, have failed to do much to slow the tide.

As the 2024 US presidential race begins to heat up, some campaigns are already testing the technology. The Republican National Committee released a video with artificially generated images of doomsday after President Biden announced his re-election, while Florida Governor Ron DeSantis posed with health minister Dr. Anthony Fauci as former President Donald J. . Posted fake photos of Trump. Officer. The Democratic Party experimented with fundraising messages generated by artificial intelligence in the spring — and found they were often more effective at encouraging engagement and donations than copy written entirely by humans.

Some politicians see artificial intelligence as a way to help reduce campaign costs, using it to quickly respond to debate questions or attack ads, or to analyze data for which Expensive specialists may be required.

Also, technology has the potential to spread disinformation to a wide audience. Experts say an obnoxious fake video, an email blast filled with computer-generated false narratives or a fabricated image of urban decay can reinforce prejudices and exacerbate partisan divisions by showing voters what they see. Let’s hope.

The technology is already far more powerful than manual manipulation – not perfect, but rapidly improving and easy to learn. In May, Sam Altman, the chief executive of OpenAI, whose company helped spark a boom in artificial intelligence last year with its popular ChatGPT chatbot, told a Senate subcommittee that he was nervous about election season.

He said that technology’s ability to “manipulate, persuade, provide one-on-one interactive disinformation” was “an important area of ​​concern”.

Representative Yvette D. Clark, a Democrat from New York, said in a statement last month that the 2024 election cycle “is poised to be the first election where AI-generated content is prevalent.” He and other congressional Democrats, including Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, have introduced legislation that would require political ads that use artificially generated content to carry disclaimers. A similar bill was recently signed into law in Washington state.

The American Association of Political Consultants recently condemned the use of deepfake content in political campaigns, calling it a violation of its code of ethics.

“People will be tempted to push the envelope and see where they can take things,” said Larry Huynh, the group’s incoming president. “Like any tool, it can have bad uses and bad functions, to lie to voters, to mislead voters, to create belief in something that doesn’t exist.”

The recent intrusion of technology into politics came as a surprise in Toronto, a city that supports artificial intelligence research and a thriving ecosystem of start-ups. The mayor’s election will be held on Monday.

A conservative candidate in the race, Anthony Fury, a former news columnist, recently laid out his platform. a document It was dozens of pages long and filled with artificially crafted material that helped him take a tough stance on crime.

A closer look clearly revealed that many of the images were not real: one laboratory scene featured scientists with what looked like alien blobs. In another rendering a woman wore a pin with gibberish on her cardigan; Similar marks appeared in an image of caution tape at a construction site. Mr. Fury’s campaign also used a synthetic image of a seated woman with two arms crossed and a third hand touching her chin.

other candidates used that image for laughs in an argument This month: “We’re using really real photos,” said Josh Metallo, who showed a photo of his family and said “nobody has three hands in our photos.”

Nevertheless, sloppy rendering was used to enhance Mr. Fury’s argument. He gained enough momentum to become one of the most recognizable names in an election that had over 100 candidates. In the same debate, he acknowledged using technology in his campaign, and said that “as we move forward to learn more about AI, we’re going to have some laughs here”.

Political experts worry that artificial intelligence, if misused, could have harmful effects on the democratic process. Misinformation is a constant risk; One of Mr Fury’s rivals said in a debate that when members of his staff used ChatGPT, he always fact-checked its output.

Darrell M. West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote, “If someone can create noise, create uncertainty or develop false stories, it can be an effective way to influence voters and win a race.” ” in a report last month. “Since some states may be short by thousands of voters in the 2024 presidential election, anything that can sway people in one direction or another could prove decisive.”

Ben Coleman, chief executive of Reality Defender, a company that provides services for AI detection, said increasingly sophisticated AI content is appearing more frequently on social networks, which are largely unwilling or unable to monitor it. “Irreparable damage” before it is even addressed, he said.

“Convincing millions of users that the content they’ve already seen and shared was fake, even after the fact, is too little, too late,” Mr Coleman said.

For several days this month, a twitch livestream A nonstop, not safe for work debate is going on between synthetic versions of Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. Disinformation experts said that both were clearly identified as fake “AI entities”, but that if an organized political campaign created such material and it spread widely without disclosure, it would undermine the value of the actual material. can be easily reduced.

Politicians may avoid accountability and claim that authentic footage of compromising actions was not genuine, a phenomenon known as false dividends. Ordinary citizens may create their own fakes, while others may find themselves trapped more deeply in polarized information bubbles, believing only the sources they have chosen to believe.

“If people can’t trust their eyes and ears, they can simply say, ‘Who knows?'” Josh A. Goldstein wrote in an email. “It may promote a move from healthy skepticism that encourages good habits (such as lateral reading and searching for reliable sources), toward an unhealthy skepticism that it is impossible to know what is true.”

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