"The need to regulate deepfakes and other deceptive uses of AI in election ads becomes more urgent with each passing day," said Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen.
Government watchdog Public Citizen on Thursday urged U.S. voters to help "ramp up pressure" on the Federal Elections Commission and pressure the panel to open an official rulemaking process regarding the use of deepfakes—false video content generated by artificial intelligence—in 2023 election campaign ads, after the FEC announced it would advance the group's related petition.
After two separate requests by Public Citizen in recent months, the FEC unanimously voted to open a 60-day public comment period on the petition, which calls for rulemaking to clarify the meaning of "fraudulent representation" in federal law, making clear that campaigns that use "deliberately deceptive AI-produced content" will be penalized.
"Deepfakes pose a significant threat to democracy as we know it," said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman. "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 FEC's unanimous decision, said Weissman, is "just a first step" toward ensuring voters will not face an onslaught of AI-generated campaign ads showing candidates in false, misleading footage and photographs.
During the 60-day comment period opening next week, he said, the public must "show the agency it must act to protect our democracy from deepfakes."
The FEC rejected Public Citizen's first petition in June, days after Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis' campaign circulated fake images of former President Donald Trump hugging former White House Coronavirus Task Force chief Anthony Fauci.
Trump's reelection campaign has also released audio clips featuring deepfaked voices of DeSantis—who is also the governor of Florida—and Adolf Hitler.
At the time Public Citizen said the FEC's refusal to regulate the use of deepfakes following those releases was a "shocking failure."
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Wednesday sent a letter to the FEC in support of Public Citizen's petition, noting that AI capabilities are rapidly becoming more sophisticated and that in the future, "it is possible... that even experts will have a difficult time distinguishing between real and artificially generated media."