2024 elections expected to lead to more AI-generated campaign ads, deepfakes

WASHINGTON — Can you tell the difference between an authentic video and one that uses artificial intelligence to alter the images or audio?

The evolution of AI is making it harder for everyday users to spot the difference. With the 2024 presidential election now about a year away, more deepfake election-related videos are popping up.

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released an AI-generated video showing made-up future news coverage in a scenario where President Biden is reelected.

“This just in. We can now call the 2024 presidential race for Joe Biden,” a narrator in the video said.

Several different voices are then used to mimic different news clips.

“Financial markets are in free fall as 500 regional banks have shuttered their doors,” said the AI-generated video. “Border agents were overrun by a surge of 80,000 illegals yesterday evening.”

The video on YouTube includes a disclaimer that labels it as an “AI-generated look into the country’s possible future if Joe Biden is re-elected in 2024.”

In September, a deepfake video pretending to show Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dropping out of the presidential race went viral before an AI disclaimer was included.

Back in March, fake AI-generated photos of former President Trump getting restrained by police also went viral.

Our Washington News Bureau spoke with Temple University Professor Subodha Kumar about the emergence of AI in the campaign space.

Kumar is the Founding Director of the Center for Business Analytics and Disruptive Technologies at the Fox School of Business and Management at Temple University.

We asked Kumar how someone can know if an election-related video is real or fake.

“For the general user, it is extremely hard right now,” said Kumar. “Very hard. There are few things you can do such as you can look for inconsistencies.”

Those inconsistencies can include something like an extra finger or words spelled wrong.

But the signs aren’t always so obvious as more and more people become familiar with making AI-generated content.

Kumar showed us how simple it is for an average user to use an AI app.

Within minutes, Washington Correspondent Samantha Manning’s real voice was used to create an AI-generated voice recording that sounded very similar to Manning.

Some online platforms like Google have already announced their own disclosure requirements for AI-generated videos.

“In mid-November 2023, we are updating our Political content policy to require that all verified election advertisers in regions where verification is required must prominently disclose when their ads contain synthetic content that inauthentically depicts real or realistic-looking people or events,” Google said in a memo posted in September. “This disclosure must be clear and conspicuous, and must be placed in a location where it is likely to be noticed by users. This policy will apply to image, video, and audio content.”

Right now, there are no federal requirements for AI – no national framework for how AI videos should be regulated.

“The policymakers have to come with clear guidelines of that,” said Kumar. “These are the rules you need to follow… The charges need to be clear. If somebody is violating this rule, what happens?”

Lawmakers have held several public hearings over the last year about how Congress can regulate this technology and its potential impact on voters.

“Should we be worried about this for our elections?” asked Sen. Josh Hawley in May during a Senate hearing about the use of AI.

“It’s one of my areas of greatest concern,” responded Samuel Altman, CEO of OpenAI.

But passing new laws in Congress is often a slow-moving process.

There are several proposals that have been introduced in Congress about AI use, including efforts to better study and understand AI, disclosure requirements and training.

But so far, no federal AI laws have been passed.

It’s a challenge that will likely only get harder as we get closer to the election.

“By mid-next year, we will be in a much more advanced stage,” said Kumar about AI in campaign ads.

The lack of federal regulations is leaving it up to the public for now to navigate the potentially confusing road ahead.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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