posted ago by spookyjumper ago by spookyjumper +20 / -0

The AI election is here

Heading into the 2024 presidential elections, mailers and robocalls seem so quaint. This battle for the White House, Congress and countless state and local offices will almost surely be the first to feature the use of artificial intelligence (AI) on a large scale to sway voters and power campaigns.

Here are three dispatches highlighting the various ways that candidates — and crucially, third parties — seem ready to use AI as America chooses its next president.

THE MISINFORMATION FLOOD On Sunday, our colleague Pranshu Verma chronicled the way AI is fueling an explosion in internet sites that look like news portals but actually spread “false information about elections, wars and natural disasters.”

“Since May, websites hosting AI-created false articles have increased by more than 1,000 percent, ballooning from 49 sites to more than 600, according to NewsGuard, an organization that tracks misinformation,” Pranshu reported.

One tactic appears to be seeding the sites with normal, authentic content, making it harder for the public to discern which pieces are fake. Some appear designed to influence voters, or generally create chaos. Others seem built to generate ad revenue. It’s unclear whether intelligence agencies have harnessed AI for influence operations. One concern centers on “deepfakes,” using AI to generate images and sound that can fool people into thinking someone has said or done something they haven’t.

“Well-dressed AI-generated news anchors are spewing pro-Chinese propaganda, amplified by bot networks sympathetic to Beijing. In Slovakia, politicians up for election found their voices had been cloned to say controversial things they never uttered, days before voters went to the polls. A growing number of websites, with generic names such as iBusiness Day or Ireland Top News, are delivering fake news made to look genuine, in dozens of languages from Arabic to Thai,” Pranshu reported.

ARE YOU THERE, VOTER? IT’S ME, ASHLEY. Over at Reuters, Anna Tong and Helen Coster recently reported on Democrat Shamaine Daniels, seeking a rematch with Rep. Scott Perry (R) after losing to him by fewer than 10 points in 2022, and turning to Ashley, an AI campaign volunteer.

“Ashley is not your typical robocaller; none of her responses are canned or pre-recorded. Her creators, who intend to mainly work with Democratic campaigns and candidates, say she is the first political phone banker powered by generative AI technology similar to OpenAI's ChatGPT. She is capable of having an infinite number of customized one-on-one conversations at the same time,” Tong and Coster reported.

Earlier this month, Ashley called thousands of Pennsylvania voters.

“Like a seasoned campaign volunteer, Ashley analyzes voters' profiles to tailor conversations around their key issues,” according to Tong and Coster. “Unlike a human, Ashley always shows up for the job, has perfect recall of all of Daniels’ positions, and does not feel dejected when she's hung up on,” they reported. Ashley is fluent in over 20 languages. She’s not perfect, though, as Ali Swenson of the Associated Press noted in her piece last week about Ashley.

“[W]hen asked off-topic questions, the tool sometimes got tripped up and shared false information. In a conversation about snacks, it said Cheetos were ‘known for being both delicious and health-conscious.’” “That’s an example of an AI ‘hallucination’ — a problem with still-evolving generative AI technology in which large language models tend to make statements that sound convincing but are false or made up,” Swenson wrote

AI WRITES. YOU DECIDE. Rachel Curry at CNBC recently looked at how AI is already shaping the politics of 2024, citing an expert as saying ChatGPT “is already producing first drafts of speeches and campaign marketing materials, as well as being used in fundraising emails and texts.”

Curry also took note of the possible role for deepfakes.

“During Chicago’s February 2023 mayoral primary election, a deepfaked video surfaced of candidate Paul Vallas appearing to approve of police brutality. Vallas ultimately lost the race. It’s impossible to say how much of an impact this video had,” Curry wrote.

On the positive side of the ledger, AI can produce extremely personal content and deliver it in a more approachable way than a candidate’s “issue page” on their website. (The way Ashley does, for instance.)

And it could be better attuned to shades of meaning in non-English languages.

“In-booth translation and transcreation, the latter of which considers the nuances of the messaging in translation as a whole rather than just individual words being accurate, could also benefit from AI usage,” Curry wrote.

Just don’t ask about Cheetos.