US officials clash over AI disclosure in political ads

Concerns exist over the potential misleading impact of AI-generated content on voters in upcoming elections.

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Top officials at the US Federal Election Commission (FEC) are divided over a proposal requiring political advertisements on broadcast radio and television to disclose if their content is generated by AI. FEC Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub backs the proposal, initiated by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, which aims to enhance transparency in political ads, whereas FEC Chair Sean Cooksey opposes it.

The proposal, which does not ban AI-generated content, comes amid increasing concerns in Washington that such content could mislead voters in the upcoming 2024 elections. Rosenworcel emphasised the risk of ‘deepfakes’ and other altered media misleading the public and noted that the FCC has long-standing authority to mandate disclosures. Weintraub also highlighted the importance of transparency for public benefit and called for collaborative regulatory efforts between the FEC and FCC.

However, Cooksey warned that mandatory disclosures might conflict with existing laws and regulations, creating confusion in political campaigns. Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr criticised the proposal, pointing out inconsistencies in regulation, as the FCC cannot oversee internet, social media, or streaming service ads. The debate gained traction following an incident in January where a fake AI-generated robocall impersonating US President Joe Biden aimed to influence New Hampshire’s Democratic primary, leading to charges against a Democratic consultant.