A group of Democratic lawmakers is calling on the Federal Election Commission to consider cracking down on the use of artificial intelligence technology in political advertisements, warning that deceptive ads could harm the integrity of next year’s elections.
The group of lawmakers, led by California Rep. Adam Schiff, said in a letter due to be sent to the FEC on Thursday that the agency should clarify that existing law against “fraudulent misrepresentation” in political ads also applies to the use of so-called deepfakes – fake videos and images created using AI.
“Quickly evolving AI technology makes it increasingly difficult for voters to accurately identify fraudulent video and audio material, which is increasingly troubling in the context of campaign advertisements,” the lawmakers wrote, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CNN. Schiff’s co-signatories included Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, and others.
The letter comes in support of a request from Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy organization founded by Ralph Nader, for the FEC to open a public consultation process on the issue.
Existing US code, the lawmakers wrote, already “prohibits candidates from fraudulently misrepresenting themselves as speaking or acting for or on behalf of another candidate or political party on a matter damaging to the other candidate or party.”
Ads created with the use of AI “can similarly allow candidates to fraudulently misrepresent themselves, disrupting the democratic processes that serve our country,” they continued.
Last month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign appeared to use deepfake images in a social media video to falsely depict former President Donald Trump hugging Dr. Anthony Fauci. Twitter later appended a community note to the post – a contributor-led feature to highlight misinformation on the social media platform – alerting the site’s users that in the video “3 still shots showing Trump embracing Fauci are AI generated images. The remainder of the ad’s recordings and images are authentic.”
In a separate letter to the FEC on Thursday, Public Citizen warned that this rapidly developing technology “will almost certainly create the opportunity for political actors to deploy it to deceive voters in ways that extend well beyond any First Amendment protections for political expression, opinion, or satire. A political actor may well be able to use AI technology to create a video that purports to show an opponent making an offensive statement or accepting a bribe.”
The group had earlier petitioned the FEC on this issue in May. The agency’s three Republican commissioners voted to reject it, while the agency’s three Democratic commissioners voted to accept it. The resulting deadlock meant the proposal could not move forward.
In explaining part of his opposition to Public Citizen’s first petition, Allen Dickerson, one of the agency’s Republican commissioners, said he did not believe Congress had given the FEC sufficient authority to regulate deceptive deepfakes in political ads.