Salon: “Terrifying”: Expert outlines “endless” ways AI could “further fracture” elections and our democracy 

January 29, 2024

Misinformation and disinformation is not a new problem by any means, but something we saw “in spades” in 2016 and 2020, Ben Winters, Electronic Privacy Information Center’s senior counsel who leads EPIC’s AI and Human Rights Project, told Salon. But AI just “supercharges and democratizes” the AI tools that can be used to cause this “devastating harm,” Winters said. He expects that widely available generative AI tools will play a “massive role” in terms of both foreign and domestic interference. This includes text, image and video creation. 

“I think it will be used by campaigns in both legitimate and misleading ways, but the bulk of the impact will be by outside users,” Winters said. “I think this is in addition to everything that was used before, and a lot of the technological tools that will have the most impact are data brokers and means of distribution like robotexts, robocalls or social media.” 

…The use of AI technology has “endless” potential implications for voter behavior and election outcomes, Winters pointed out, adding that “it’s really quite terrifying.” 

AI-generated content provides an opportunity for any political actor to discredit opponents or fabricate political scandals to advance their agenda. This can ultimately lead to voters making misinformed decisions based on false information. 

Depending on the content, people can “feel scared” to vote due to safety concerns, individuals could be misinformed about when and where to vote and in some cases, people might not vote for a specific candidate “out of fear or blatantly false information,” Winters explained. There is also a “risk” of people seeking donations to financially harm voters.  

“I think AI generated election-related information will really further fracture our already shaky information ecosystem,” Winters said. 

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