- Political campaigns are using AI to create election material, attack ads, and donation requests.
- AI can be helpful in pumping out images and performing redundant work quickly.
- But experts are concerned that the tool will be used to “democratize disinformation.”
Earlier this month, Ron DeSantis’s campaign team posted an attack ad on Twitter that featured a peculiar image of the Florida governor’s main opponent, Donald Trump.
The former president — who had repeatedly dismissed health experts’ input on COVID-19 — appeared to be embracing and kissing the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Viewers quickly noted that the moment never occurred: The images were all AI-generated.
—DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) June 5, 2023
Campaigns, ranging from mayoral races to the 2024 presidential election, have already been using artificial intelligence to create election ads or outreach emails — with some reportedly seeing benefits in the tool.
The Democratic National Committee, for example, ran tests with AI-generated content and found that it performed as well or better than human-written copy when it came to engagement and donations, The New York Times reported, citing three anonymous sources familiar with the matter. Two of the sources told the Times that no messages had been sent that were attributed to President Joe Biden or another individual.
A DNC spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent during the weekend.
In Toronto’s mayoral race, which will be held Monday, conservative candidate Anthony Furey has stood out among the 101 people running for mayor partly for using AI-generated images in his campaign material.
One image features a digital portrait of a city street lined with people who appear to be camping by the buildings. But a closer look at the foreground shows one of the people appears more like a CGI-rendered blob.
Another image featured two people who appeared to be engaged in an important discussion. The person on the left has three arms.
—Ben Spurr (@BenSpurr) June 12, 2023
Candidates used the AI error to take a dig at Furey. However, according to the Times, the conservative candidate has still used some of the renderings to boost his platform and now stands out as one of the more recognizable names in the packed election.
A spokesperson for Furey’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent during the weekend.
While AI can pump out images and text with little to no cost, potentially aiding in redundant work such as campaign emails, experts are concerned that the tool presents a new challenge in combatting disinformation.
“Through templates that are easy and inexpensive to use, we are going to face a Wild West of campaign claims and counter-claims, with limited ability to distinguish fake from real material and uncertainty regarding how these appeals will affect the election,” Darrell M. West, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution wrote in a report about AI will transform the 2024 elections.
Beyond fake images, West wrote that artificial intelligence could also be used for “very precise audience targeting” to reach swing voters.
A Centre for Public Impact report pointed to the 2016 US elections and how data from Cambridge Analytica was used to send targeted ads based on a social media user’s “individual psychology.”
“The problem with this approach is not the technology itself, but rather the covert nature of the campaign and the blatant insincerity of its political message. Different voters received different messages based on predictions about their susceptibility to different arguments,” the report said.
During his first appearance before Congress in May, the CEO of OpenAI, which created ChatGPT, admitted his concerns about the use of artificial intelligence in elections as the tool advances.
“This is a remarkable time to be working on artificial intelligence,” he said. “But as this technology advances, we understand that people are anxious about how it could change the way we live. We are too.”
DeSantis’ and Trump’s campaign teams did not respond to a request for comment sent over the weekend.
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