Ohio Democrat introduces bill to protect against AI-generated election misinformation

Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) has introduced legislation to protect voters against artificial intelligence-created election misinformation.

The Securing Elections from AI Deception Act seeks to ban the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to deprive or defraud individuals of their right to vote and require disclaimers on AI-generated content.

“Deceptive AI-generated content is a threat to elections, voters, and our democracy. AI-generated content is a powerful new tool requiring oversight and regulation to ensure our elections are secure, and the rights of voters are protected. This threat is no longer theoretical. It is quickly making its malevolent presence known and will likely get much worse,” Brown said in a statement.

“I am especially concerned that deepfake images, audio, and video will be used to target Black and minority voters whose voting rights have historically and consistently been under threat,” she continued. “Combining 21st century technology with old-fashioned voter suppression and misinformation is a dangerous combination.”

The legislation prohibits AI-generated images sending out deceptive messages on the time, place, or method of voting; eligibility requirements to vote or register to vote; endorsements; and requirements for voting.

It also prohibits using deception, threats or intimidation or fraud to try to interfere with an individual’s right to vote.

Those caught using AI for such actions could face penalties or fines under the legislation.

AI, including fake audio and images, has already been used to promote narratives around the 2024 election. Many of these efforts have targeted Black voters, a critical base for Democrats.

In more than one instance, supporters of former President Trump created images of him surrounded by Black supporters. Trump, who faces off against President Biden in a 2020 rematch, has been hoping to court Black voters.

Then, the night before the New Hampshire primary in January this year, a host of AI-generated robocalls targeting Black voters by impersonating Biden urged voters to “save your vote” for the general election.

A bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee also found that Russia’s use of social media interference during the 2016 election “targeted African-Americans more than any other group or demographic.”

“A lie that deprives a person from voting is an insult to our democracy — no matter the source,” Alex Ault, policy counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a statement supporting Brown’s legislation. “Black and Brown voters deserve better than to be attacked and misled by bad actors using AI tools.”

In March, Brown sent a letter on AI election interference to the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, and the Election Assistance Commission. The bipartisan letter requested information regarding the use of artificial intelligence to intimidate, threaten or misinform voters during the 2024 election cycle.

“The technology is new, but often the aims are as old as this country — to impede the rights of Black voters and other minority groups,” she said at the time.

Her new legislation has 46 co-sponsors, all Democrats, and has been endorsed by the NAACP.

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