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Wisconsin Looking at Ways to Rein AI Usage in Political Ads During the 2024 Election Cycle

Wednesday, February 21st, 2024 -- 1:00 PM

(Hope Karnopp, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) As the 2024 election cycle ramps up, you might have already seen or heard political campaign advertisements that contained artificial intelligence.

Or, a more alarming prospect: You have no idea if you did. According to Hope Karnopp with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, before the New Hampshire primary, a phone call mimicking President Joe Biden's voice told thousands of voters to skip the polls.

A pro-Ron DeSantis ad featured former President Donald Trump's voice reading a post he wrote on Truth Social, but he didn't speak those words in real life. And last spring, Republicans used AI to create an ad depicting a dystopian future under a second Biden term.

Those examples were cited by lawmakers, experts and advocacy groups interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, though no one could recall obvious uses of AI in ads aired in Wisconsin.

But the battleground state could become a prime target in the immediate days before elections, with little time for remedy. There have been early efforts to rein in artificial intelligence in politics before the 2024 elections.

The Federal Communications Commission just ruled robocalls with AI-generated voices are illegal. And the Federal Election Commission has started a process to regulate "deliberately deceptive" campaign ads.

But the federal government is "going very slow," said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group that asked FEC for those rules. "We really are counting on the states to step up to the plate."

Five states, including Minnesota and Michigan, already have laws on the books that regulate AI in campaign ads, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A bill that has been moving swiftly through the state Legislature would add Wisconsin to the list.

The Wisconsin bill would require campaign ads that contain synthetic media, "audio or video content substantially produced by means of generative artificial intelligence," to include a disclaimer.

The words "contains content generated by AI" would be spoken at the beginning and end of radio ads. Video ads would include readable writing that audio or video content was generated by AI during the portion that contains it, at the beginning and end.

Unlike Texas and Minnesota, which essentially ban AI-generated ads in the lead-up to elections, the Wisconsin bill doesn't include a timeline or blanket restriction. Lawmakers were concerned that could invite legal challenges based on free speech.

Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.