It appears that there won’t be any new regulations on the use of artificial intelligence or AI in elections from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for the 2024 election cycle, based on the recent vote to table the pursuit of regulations on “deepfake” political ads.
Some are concerned that the election could become an “AI arms race”. The rationale behind this is a common proliferation scenario where each party fears the other having more weapons, so it gets more itself.
Where to draw the line is an important question. Because we protect free speech – especially surrounding political campaigns – it is one that each campaign will have to figure out for itself. This doesn’t mean that there can be no rules. Instead, it provides an opportunity for campaigns to devise shared ethical standards.
Of course, the question would be whether candidates saw an opponent gaining political ammunition from violating the rules to be more or less damaging than what they would stand to gain.
If the data or votes to be gained are more valuable, then there is little chance of AI limitations being agreed to, much less followed. Of course, even calling for AI limitations could become political capital, with campaigns potentially gaining publicity and voter support.
If campaigns cannot agree on AI use limitations – or don’t follow them – the onus falls on voters to critically evaluate campaign marketing. Third-party content labeling by media organizations or others could prospectively aid readers in this; however, even limited exposure to misinformation can be hard to correct and drives greater future belief in similar misinformation.
ChatGPT can similarly speed up the writing process and has been so valuable to its users as to become the fastest-growing app ever; however, it is not without content accuracy issues. Cambridge Analytica showed the power of computer analysis to allow campaigns to get to know voters as well as community campaigners – all from a distance, without human intervention, and at a fraction of the cost.
Ideally, standards for campaign behavior will emerge and be followed as campaign decorum. Of course, each candidate runs the risk of another violating these unofficial and unenforceable standards to their benefit.
Ultimately, the most effective deterrent is the power of public opinion. The fear of intense voter backlash – based on public reaction to similar campaign decorum violations in the past – is a risk that all but the most desperate long-shot candidates will likely avoid.