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FEC Remains Woefully Behind as States Take Action on AI Deepfakes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It has now been four months since the Federal Election Commission (FEC) closed its comment period on Public Citizen’s petition for a new rule to regulate the use of generative AI deepfakes in election ads. In January, the agency indicated that a decision could be expected by summer, making it highly unlikely that much-needed guardrails would be in place before the November elections.

Meanwhile, states across the country have proactively taken action on the issue. In the current legislative session, 32 states have put forth bills to regulate deepfakes in election communications. Five additional states have already enacted legislation, and several more are well on their way. 

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, issued the following statement:

“If governmental authorities fail to act, the 2024 election is virtually certain to see a wave of political deepfakes that confuse and defraud voters, swing elections and sow chaos.

“The good news is that state legislators from both sides of the aisle, across the country have recognized the cataclysmic effect deepfakes could have on the integrity of the 2024 election and are rushing to put protections in place.

“More good news: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has banned deepfake robocalls, though the agency does not have authority to ban election-related deepfake calls to landlines.

“But there’s bad news, too: The Federal Election Commission (FEC) – the federal agency charged with protecting our elections – is asleep at the wheel. In contrast to the proactive action of the FCC, the FEC failed to consider regulatory action until Public Citizen petitioned to demand the agency use its existing authority to block deepfakes.

“Now – nine months after we first petitioned the agency and four months after the close of a public comment period – the FEC is still navel-gazing. Its chair has suggested we can hope for a decision on whether the agency will act by the start of summer. That’s a timetable unlikely to get a rule in place before the November election.

“C’mon FEC. An electoral nightmare is racing toward us. It confers no partisan advantage. The solutions are straightforward and have bipartisan support – as states across the nation are demonstrating. Wake up from your trance. Do your job and protect our elections and democracy. Ban political deepfakes without delay.”