Senators scrutinizing AI tools for posing new threat of misinformation in 2024 elections

Senators are honing in on the potential for new artificial intelligence tools to create an avalanche of misinformation in the 2024 elections, as Congress develops laws to govern the emerging technology.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Wednesday that Congress must act to stop the risks of AI disrupting elections.

“If we don’t act, we could soon live in a world where political campaigns regularly deploy totally fabricated, but also totally believable images and footage of Democratic or Republican candidates, distorting their statements and greatly harming their election chances,” Mr. Schumer said at a Senate Rules Committee hearing. “And what then is to stop foreign adversaries from taking advantage of this technology to interfere with our elections?”

Some state officials are not waiting for Congress to pass a new law.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon told the Rules Committee that his office is working with the federal government to counter undesirable content powered by AI about elections.

“We’ve been working with local and federal partners to monitor and respond to inaccuracies that could morph into conspiracy theories on election-related topics,” Mr. Simon said.

As his state’s elections chief, he assured lawmakers that AI’s potential threat to the administration of elections is real.

AI tools creating new risks for elections that jeopardize lawmakers keeping their jobs is a concern not limited to the Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner said last week he worried about AI spurring foreign influence efforts over elections.

“The proliferation of these technologies have dramatically lowered the barrier of entry for foreign governments to apply these tools to their own military and intelligence domains,” the Virginia Democrat said at an intelligence committee hearing.

Mr. Warner said AI tools had benefited U.S. officials, but America must expect its adversaries will have access to new AI products too.

American cyber officials are aware of the concern and bracing for impact.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh warned of generative-AI-fueled foreign influence efforts aimed at elections, during congressional hearings on his nomination to take over the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command.

Having previous experience in election defense efforts in 2018, 2020, and 2022, Lt. Gen Haugh told senators in July he was anxious about new AI tools’ effects on the 2024 elections.

“As we look at this election cycle, the area that we do have to consider that will be slightly different will be the role of generative AI as part of this,” he said at a Senate Armed Services hearing. “And so our concern is foreign use attempting to be a part of our electoral process.”

American policymakers are working on new rules and laws intended to protect people from a range of perceived dangers from new AI tools.

White House officials are working on an artificial intelligence-focused executive order for President Biden to sign later this year, according to Jen Easterly, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director.

Congress is busily crafting legislation to curb AI threats. Mr. Schumer has said he has talked with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, about AI legislation and cautioned against rushing the effort in Congress.

House lawmakers also appear to be taking a methodical approach to learning about AI. For example, 10 House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence lawmakers visited the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this week to meet with faculty members about AI as they explore legislation about emerging technology.

Some Republican lawmakers have urged Biden administration regulators to abstain from cracking down on AI until Congress gives greater guidance. Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, urged regulators to wait for congressional action on AI and Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, has similarly advocated a pause before making new regulations.

Source: WT