The AI ​​election is here. Regulators can't decide whose problem it is.

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The federal government faces a shrinking window to regulate the use of artificial intelligence during election campaigns before the 2024 election. But a brewing turf war among federal agencies is threatening one of the most important efforts to set new rules for the tools.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission announced a plan last month to require politicians to disclose their use of AI in TV and radio ads. But the proposal is facing unexpected opposition from a top official at the Federal Election Commission, which is mulling its own new rules on the use of AI by campaigns.

The controversy — along with inaction in the FEC and Congress — could leave voters with limited federal protections against those who use AI to mislead the public or alter their political messages during the final stretch of a campaign. Wear a mask. New generative AI technologies have already proven capable of creating exceptionally realistic images.

“AI has the potential to greatly influence our elections, and right now, there is a complete vacuum of regulation on this issue,” said Ellen Weintraub, the Democratic vice chair of the Federal Election Commission.

More than a dozen states have adopted laws regulating the use of AI in campaigns, but Congress has yet to act, despite widespread concern over the tool's impact on Capitol Hill.

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Adao Noti, executive director of the Campaign Legal Center and former FEC associate general counsel, said that given the bureaucratic quagmire, the likelihood of federal bans on campaign AI use before November's presidential election is “extremely low.”

“The horsemen are not coming,” he said.

AI deepfakes have targeted officials and politicians this year. Democratic operative Steve Cramer was indicted last month over an AI-generated robocall impersonating President Biden, telling New Hampshire residents not to vote early. Soon after, the FCC banned AI-generated voice imitations in robocalls. Last week, a deepfake video surfaced showing State Department spokesman Matthew Miller describing the Russian city of Belgorod as a possible target for Ukrainian strikes with US weapons.

Any major AI concerns in the campaign could cause headaches for the Biden administration, which has made AI a policy focus. Biden issued an executive order in October requiring several federal agencies to quickly develop regulations on the use of AI technologies.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworsell (D) announced plans last month to consider a rule that would require political advertisers to include on-air or written disclosures when deploying “AI-generated content.” Need to do.

But this week, a top election official and an FCC member, both Republicans, threw a wrench in those plans, accusing the agency's Democratic leadership of overstepping its authority.

FEC Chairman Sean Cooksey wrote in a letter to Rosenworcel that the proposal would undermine his agency's role as the top enforcer of federal campaign law. The FCC's maneuvering could create “irreconcilable conflicts” with potential FEC rules and prompt a legal challenge, Cooksey wrote.

The FCC's proposal has not yet been made public, but Rosenworsel said the move would not restrict the use of AI. But instead clarify that “consumers have a right to know when AI tools are being used in the political ads they see.”

In an interview, Cooksey argued that enforcing disclosure requirements so close to elections could do more harm than good by creating public confusion about the standards.

He said it would sow chaos with political campaigns and interfere in the upcoming elections.

Fellow Republicans In Congress And At the FCC Rosenworcel's plan was abandoned. Rep. Kathy McMorris Rogers (R-Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that the agency does not have the expertise or authority to regulate political campaigns or AI.

FCC Commissioner Brandon Carr (R) argued that because the rules would only apply to political ads on TV and radio and not online streaming platforms, such as YouTube TV or Hulu, AI disclosures in some places I will have a sudden increase but others will not. Very confusing for consumers.” He joined Cooksey in calling on the agency to table the issue after the election, if not indefinitely.

“The FCC, first of all, does not need to introduce a sea change in the regulation of political speech on the eve of a national election,” Carr said.

Rosenworcel said in a statement that the FCC has required campaign ads to disclose sponsors for decades and that adapting those rules to accommodate new technologies is nothing new.

“The time to act on public disclosure of AI use is now,” he said. “This technology has benefits, but we also know it has the potential to mislead the public and misinform voters through voices and images that impersonate people without their permission.”

With a 3-2 majority, Democrats at the FCC could ignore Carr's objections and move forward with plans before the election, but the prospect of a legal challenge could stall that effort.

Without legislation specifying how AI should be regulated, any federal agency's actions “will almost certainly be challenged in court one way or another,” Noti said.

Several federal initiatives aimed at curbing AI's impact on the 2024 race face an uncertain fate in Washington, even as officials from both parties talk about the technology's potential to disrupt the election process. Be warned.

The FEC is considering its own application on the matter, which would expressly bar candidates from using AI to intentionally misrepresent opponents in political ads. But Democratic and Republican FEC officials alike have expressed skepticism about the agency's ability to step in and have called on Congress to enact new rules in lieu of the proposal.

Unlike the FCC, the FEC is evenly divided with the chair rotating between the two major parties, a setup that has often stalled the agency as election reform has become increasingly polarized.

On Capitol Hill, senators have introduced a package of bills that would require AI-generated political ads to highlight the waiver, among other restrictions. Yet despite the calls of the Action by top Congress leaders on the issue, Congress's window to act before Election Day is fast closing.

“While it's good that federal agencies are looking at the potential for AI to advance campaigns and elections, we can't wait to put comprehensive safeguards in place to address these threats,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn. .) said. , who is leading the legislative effort.

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