FEC says it has no authority to regulate AI content in political ads

FEC says it has no authority to regulate AI content in political ads

But the commissioners are asking Congress for more jurisdiction over the matter.

The Federal Election Commission stalled on Thursday on the progress of a petition to impose regulations on the content of AI-generated political ads.

The FEC voted 3-3 along party lines on whether to open the matter up to public comment, with two members, a Democrat and a Republican, expressing skepticism about their authority over AI.

“Our jurisdiction on this point is limited to cases where a campaign fraudulently poses as acting on behalf of any other candidate or political party,” Commissioner Allen Dickerson, a Republican, said at the FEC public meeting.

“Now, with my full support, the committee has asked Congress to expand our jurisdiction,” Dickerson said.

Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, who voted unsuccessfully with other Democrats to open the petition to public comment, did not weigh whether the FEC has jurisdiction, but she stressed the importance of soliciting outside feedback.

“Often, the comments we get will be about whether we have a legal basis to move forward, whether we have jurisdiction,” he said. “These are all topics that are often addressed in the comments and I think it’s important to engage the public on these topics.”

The meeting was the FEC’s first public engagement on the issue, which is increasingly in the spotlight as AI is adopted in more parts of society and appears more often in political content.

Candidates, their campaigns and the groups that support them have already begun using hyper-realistic AI-powered photos and videos, also known as “deepfakes,” in their advertisements and other audience content.

The petition that was considered on Thursday had been filed by the non-profit advocacy group Public Citizen. He argued that the FEC, which regulates campaign finance, should also regulate some misleading AI-generated content under its existing rules on a candidate’s “fraudulent misrepresentation”.

Washington lawmakers have tried to address the issue. Democrats in both houses of Congress recently introduced a bill that would require a disclaimer on political ads that feature AI-generated images or videos. Republicans have yet to signal support or opposition to that proposal.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden convened a panel of technology leaders to discuss the risks and promises of the new technology, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled a framework for AI policy and governance.

Schumer highlighted the risks to politics and elections in a speech this week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on National Security.

“We may soon be living in a world where political campaigns routinely distribute totally fabricated but totally believable images and footage of Democratic or Republican candidates, distorting their statements and greatly harming their electoral chances,” he said.

The legislation proposed in Congress would address only a sliver of AI-generated content that could influence policy. Because it only applies to political ads, the bill would have little influence over how other information is disseminated among social media users.

Policy pundits also see potential value in using AI beyond its capabilities to create fake content, such as for automated voter propaganda and email communications.

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