As the countdown to the 2024 presidential election begins, the surge of artificial intelligence (AI) into the political arena is sparking a blend of anticipation and apprehension. With AI’s capacity to generate text, images, audio, and even deepfake videos, concerns are mounting about its potential influence on the electoral landscape.
Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, interim dean at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, aptly describes the upcoming election as an “AI election.” Much like the role of social media in past elections, AI is poised to play a pivotal role, ushering in a new era of political dynamics.
Concerns and Predictions:
Experts are sounding the alarm on various fronts. The deployment of AI chatbots, capable of disseminating misleading information, is a primary worry. Lisa Bryant, chair of the Department of Political Science at California State University, Fresno, foresees a potentially dark turn, emphasizing the risk of AI-generated content affecting voters’ information environment and blurring the lines between truth and falsehood.
The anxiety extends beyond academia, resonating with the general public. Surveys, including a UChicago Harris/AP-NORC poll and a Morning Consult-Axios survey, reveal bipartisan unease about AI’s role in amplifying false information during the 2024 election. The fear is palpable, with nearly 6 in 10 respondents expressing concerns about the impact of AI-driven misinformation on the election outcome.
Examples from recent political campaigns underscore the tangible threat. The use of AI-generated versions of voices, deepfake videos, and altered content by political entities and PACs highlights the potential for AI to manipulate public perception.
In response to these concerns, tech giants are taking steps to address the ethical use of AI in politics. Google and Meta have introduced measures requiring disclosure when AI is used in political ads to ensure transparency. President Biden’s executive order on AI in October emphasizes the need for standards, safety, and content authentication.
However, the legislative landscape is struggling to keep pace with technological advancements. Lawmakers face the challenge of crafting effective regulations while ensuring that AI’s positive contributions are not stifled.
Campaigns Embrace AI:
Simultaneously, within the campaign landscape, AI is proving its worth. Kevin Pérez-Allen, chief communications officer for the nonpartisan health-care advocate organization United States of Care, sees AI as a valuable tool for data analysis, message crafting, and social media analysis. Campaigns are leveraging AI to streamline tasks, such as generating drafts of speeches and marketing materials.
However, the optimism is tempered by the risks of deepfakes. Sinclair Schuller, co-founder and managing partner of AI implementation firm Nuvalence, warns of the potential for misinformation campaigns using AI-generated content to sway public opinion.
A Balancing Act:
As AI becomes increasingly entrenched in the political landscape, there is a delicate balance to strike. While concerns about misinformation and deepfakes are valid, AI also holds promise in creating hyper-personalized campaigns, breaking down monolithic voter bloc narratives, and enhancing information accessibility.
The path forward requires a nuanced approach, combining regulatory frameworks with proactive strategies. Shamaine Daniels, a Democratic candidate for Congress, exemplifies this approach by utilizing AI-powered tools for her campaign while acknowledging the need for vigilance against potential misuse.
The 2024 election, as it draws near, stands at the crossroads of technological innovation and societal responsibility. Awareness, education, and proactive measures are essential to harness the positive potential of AI while safeguarding the integrity of democratic processes. As voters, candidates, and regulators grapple with these challenges, the role of AI in shaping the future of elections remains both a source of promise and a cause for vigilance.