Prepare For a Wave of US Politicians Using AI in Their Campaigns

Representative Ted Lieu expects Democrats and Republicans will use AI to help with their campaigns, “not only this election but every upcoming election.”

(Bloomberg) — Some worry a new crop of artificial intelligence tools that can make compelling images and written work in seconds could sway the 2024 US presidential election. But there could be a more immediate impact for voters: a rise in AI-generated emails and campaign ads from politicians. 

“I am assuming both political parties are going to be using AI not only this election but every upcoming election,” Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, said on the latest episode of the Bloomberg Originals series AI IRL when asked if the technology can help with campaigning. 

Some of this is already happening.  In June, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign posted an online ad featuring AI-generated images of former President Donald Trump hugging and kissing Anthony Fauci. And in April, the Republican National Committee used dystopian AI-generated imagery for an ad responding to President Joe Biden’s reelection bid. 

If Lieu’s prediction is correct, it would mean a growing number of political figures leaning on AI to get elected at a time when state and federal lawmakers are working to find ways to rein in the technology. Lieu, in particular, introduced a bill earlier this year calling for a federal commission to shape the strategy on AI regulation. Lieu also used AI to draft a bill to regulate AI. 

Lieu said AI has the potential to push society forward, comparing the technology to the steam engine, but he said he’s “not sure” about whether AI erodes the public’s trust in democratic institutions. “I don’t think we’re ready as a society or as a government to see all the amazing benefits of AI but also the disruptions,” he said.

The US could look to countries in Africa to understand the impact AI can have on the political process, according to Nanjira Sambuli, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, citing Gabon’s election in 2019. “There was a rumor that there was a deepfake video of a president who hadn’t been seen in public,” Sambuli said on AI IRL. “And that in itself, the speculation around whether it was a deepfake or not, led to a coup attempt.”

Sambuli said AI can also help more people participate in the political process, particularly across African countries, through technology that can translate text and recognize speech across a range of languages and dialects. “The diversity of languages also means diversity of knowledge,” Sambuli said. If done right, she said, AI has the potential to build coalitions that are “representative of a majority of people who have not informed how the world is ordered today.”

AI could also help grassroot campaigns lower costs and open the door for new candidates to run. But it also risks bombarding voters with more cringe-worthy messages asking for campaign donations. Asked if AI could help write fundraising emails for candidates, possibly in the style of a Taylor Swift song, Lieu said, “AI could totally do that.”

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