- Political campaigns use AI to create election material, attack ads, and fundraisers.
- AI can be helpful in pumping out images and doing superfluous work quickly.
- However, experts fear that the tool could be used to “democratize disinformation”.
Earlier this month, Ron DeSantis’ campaign team posted an attack ad on Twitter that featured a peculiar image of Florida Gov. Donald Trump’s main opponent.
The former president – who has repeatedly dismissed the contributions of health experts on COVID-19 – appeared to dislike former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci to hug and kiss.
Viewers quickly realized that this moment never happened: the images were all AI-generated.
—DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) June 5, 2023
Campaigns ranging from mayoral elections to the 2024 presidential election have already used artificial intelligence to create election ads or outreach emails — with some reportedly seeing benefits in the tool.
For example, the Democratic National Committee conducted tests of AI-generated content and found that it performed as well or better than human-written content in terms of engagement and donations, the New York Times reported, citing three anonymous sources who are familiar with the text subject. Two of the sources told the Times that no messages were aired that attributed President Joe Biden or anyone else.
A DNC spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent over the weekend.
In Toronto’s mayoral election, which will take place on Monday, conservative candidate Anthony Furey has distinguished himself among the 101 candidates for mayor, in part by using AI-generated imagery in his campaign footage.
One image shows a digital portrait of a city street lined with people who appear to be camping next to the buildings. But a closer look at the foreground reveals that one of the characters looks more like a CGI-rendered blob.
Another picture showed two people who appeared to be involved in an important discussion. The person on the left has three arms.
—Ben Spurr (@BenSpurr) June 12, 2023
The contestants used the AI bug to attack Furey. However, according to the Times, the Conservative candidate has still used some of the displays to bolster his program and now stands out as one of the most prominent names in the packed election.
A spokesman for Furey’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent over the weekend.
While AI can output images and text at little or no cost, potentially useful for superfluous work like campaign emails, experts fear the tool poses a new challenge in combating disinformation.
“By templates that are easy and inexpensive to use, we will face a wild west of campaign claims and counter-claims, with limited ability to distinguish fake from real material, and uncertainty about how these appeals will affect the election,” he said Darrell M. West, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in a report that AI will transform the 2024 election.
Beyond fake images, artificial intelligence can also be used for “very precise targeting” to reach swing voters, West wrote.
A report by the Center for Public Impact cited the 2016 US election 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 apparent dishonesty of its political message. Different voters received different messages based on predictions about their susceptibility to different arguments,” the report said.
In his first appearance before Congress in May, the CEO of OpenAI, the founder of ChatGPT, admitted his concerns about the use of artificial intelligence in elections as the tool evolves.
“This is a remarkable time to be working on artificial intelligence,” he said. “But as this technology advances, we understand that people are concerned about how it could change the way we live. So are we.”
The DeSantis and Trump campaign teams did not respond to a request for comment sent over the weekend.