Feds Inch Closer to Regulating AI Deepfakes in Campaign Ads

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) unanimously voted to receive public input on a petition brought by the nonpartisan advocacy group Public Citizen, which pushes to restrict the use of AI from generating intentionally false content in campaign materials.

It’s a significant development amid widespread concern that quickly evolving AI technology could make it increasingly difficult for voters to accurately identify fraudulent video and audio material, which is particularly worrisome in campaign advertisements.

“Deepfakes pose a significant threat to democracy as we know it,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “The FEC must use its authority to ban deepfakes or risk being complicit with an AI-driven wave of fraudulent misinformation and the destruction of basic norms of truth and falsity.”

The next step in the process is a public comment period, which will open next week and remain open for 60 days, after which the FEC will determine whether or not to take up a final rule.

While the public comment period is a very early step in the regulatory process, Thursday’s vote is particularly notable after the FEC was deadlocked on an earlier petition from the group, with some commissioners expressing skepticism that they had the authority to regulate AI ads.

In it’s petition, Public Citizen holds that the FEC, which regulates campaign finance, should also regulate some misleading AI-generated content under its existing rules on “fraudulent misrepresentation” of a candidate. The petition notes that 52 U.S.C. §30124 prohibits candidates from fraudulently misrepresenting themselves as speaking or acting for or on behalf of another candidate or political party on a matter damaging to the other candidate or party. Deceptive ads created by generative AI can similarly allow candidates to fraudulently misrepresent themselves, disrupting democratic processes.

Following Public Citizen’s petition filing in July, members in both chambers of Congress circulated letters in support of the aims of the petition and asked the FEC to begin the rulemaking process.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.