As we move closer to the 2024 elections, state election officials are expressing increasing concern over the potential misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) to generate misleading content. In a recent national conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State, officials highlighted the growing threat of AI-generated misinformation and the need for proactive measures to counteract it.
The Threat of AI-Generated Misinformation
State election officials are particularly concerned about the rise of generative AI tools that can create false and misleading content. These tools can be used to create deepfakes, altered videos that use facial mapping and AI to make it appear that real people are saying things they never said. This has serious implications for the integrity of the election process, as it opens up new avenues for foreign adversaries to meddle in U.S. elections.
Preparing for the Worst
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon encapsulated the sentiment of many officials, stating, “You hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” This planning involves preparing for the possibility that multiple communication channels could be filled with false and misleading information. Officials in Michigan and Colorado have expressed particular concern about the rise of AI and its potential misuse in the election process.
Taking Action Against Misinformation
In response to these concerns, some state officials are taking proactive measures to combat AI-generated misinformation. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has convened a working group in her office to game out potential risks, while Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has called for state and federal regulations requiring disclosures of AI-generated content, along with boosting public awareness.
The Role of Social Media
The role of social media in spreading misinformation is also a key concern. Some state election officials have expressed their intention to continue communicating with social media companies about content deemed false or deceptive, despite a recent court order limiting federal agencies’ ability to do so. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose highlighted the importance of combating misinformation by spreading “copious amounts of truth.”
Staffing and Experience: Other Key Concerns
In addition to the threat of AI-generated misinformation, officials also cited staffing and the loss of experienced leaders overseeing elections at the local level as top concerns. The loss of experienced election workers can lead to an increase in mistakes, which in the current environment can be perceived as deliberate or malicious.
The Road Ahead
As we approach the 2024 elections, the threat of AI-generated misinformation looms large. State election officials are taking proactive measures to combat this threat, but the challenge is significant. As AI continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, the need for clear legislation, ethical guidelines, and public awareness becomes increasingly urgent. The discussions at the recent national conference highlight the importance of these issues and the need for ongoing vigilance and action in the face of these emerging threats.