WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today called on the two major parties and their presidential candidates to pledge not to use generative A.I. or deepfake technology to mislead or defraud the electorate. Political operatives now have the means to produce ads with highly realistic computer-generated images, audio, and video of opponents that appear genuine, but are completely fabricated.
“Generative A.I. now poses a significant threat to truth and democracy as we know it,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The technology will create legions of opportunities to deceive and defraud voters in ways that extend well beyond any First Amendment protections for political expression, opinion, or satire.”
A.I. does not inherently advantage one candidate or party over another, except in their willingness to use it for deceptive, nefarious, and malicious purposes. Allowing this technology would only reward and encourage bad actors.
Public Citizen is also calling for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to issue a rule banning the use of manipulative and potentially dangerous generative A.I. technologies in campaign ads. Federal law already prohibits the kind of fraudulent misrepresentation that generative A.I. now makes possible; as such, there is ample basis for an FEC rule banning or severely restricting A.I. in political campaigns.
One particularly alarming scenario is that an “October surprise” deepfake video released shortly before Election Day could go viral – with no ability for voters to determine that it’s fake, no time for a candidate to deny it, and no way to demonstrate convincingly that it’s fake. Both parties, their presidential candidates, and the FEC can prevent this (and many other) easily foreseeable abuses of the technology by disavowing and banning A.I. in political campaigns now.
“[A]s the technology continues to improve, it will become increasingly difficult and, perhaps, nearly impossible for an average person to distinguish deepfake videos and audio clips from authentic media. It is an open question how well even digital technology experts will be able to distinguish deepfakes from real media,” the letter notes.