FEC Deadlock Slows Ruling on AI Regulation Ahead of 2024 Elections

(RightWing.org) – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a critical issue in many aspects of life because it allows users to harness resources across the internet at lightning speeds to produce responses significantly more quickly. However, like most tools, it has the potential for misuse. In the political arena, campaigns could utilize AI to create deepfakes so real it would appear opponents were actually saying or doing things they never did, for instance.

That potential has prompted Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer advocacy group that says it “champions the public interest in the halls of power,” to send a petition to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in May asking that group to clarify rules of use for AI in campaign ads. Unfortunately, the commission deadlocked 3 to 3 along partisan lines on a vote to move forward on the request.

Examples Already Exist

After President Joe Biden officially announced his reelection campaign, the Republican National Convention (RNC) quickly responded with an AI-generated attack ad. The Brookings Institute and others pointed out the RNC disclosed they used AI to produce their material. Yet, currently, there are no rules in place requiring a disclosure.

Another example involves a pro-DeSantis campaign ad attacking former President Trump using an AI-generated voice-over. The Never Back Down group released the ad on July 18. Commenters noted the voice sounded off even though the group didn’t disclose they used AI.

Democratic Politicians Encourage FEC To Reconsider

On July 13, a group of Democratic lawmakers from both the House and Senate signed a letter drafted by Rep. Adam Schiff asking the FEC to reconsider its May decision on the Public Citizen petition. Schiff pointed out the commission already has the statutory authority to draft and clarify rules for AI use with regard to campaign ads and materials.

Schiff noted the urgency of acting as soon as possible on the petition to allow the public time to comment on any rule changes. He asked the commission to provide a detailed justification should they decide to decline the request to reconsider.

Public Citizen Submits Second Petition

On July 13, Public Citizen submitted a second petition requesting the FEC clarify AI rules of use in campaign ads and materials. In a press release accompanying the petition, Robert Weissman and Lisa Gilbert, the organization’s president and vice president, warned about the potential impact that having no regulations on AI could have on the 2024 election.

The second petition noted commissioners debated and voted on the first request on June 22, declining the plea without providing the public any opportunity for input or commentary, which was rare. The new petition gave commissioners additional statutory grounds to rule in favor of the request and two more examples of AI used in campaign ads without disclosure.

Moreover, the new Public Citizen petition provided a groundwork of suggested rules based on the commission’s existing framework. Weissman and Public Citizen Government Affairs Lobbyist Craig Holman offered additional reasons for the commissioners to consider implementing new regulations regarding AI, including statements from past and present FEC commissioners. There’s been no response from the FEC on the second petition.

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