Experts warn artificial intelligence could cause havoc in 2024 elections


NEW YORK (AP) — Experts are warning that the spread of misinformation could get worse in the coming presidential election contest with artificial intelligence tools making it far cheaper and easier to potentially influence elections.

“I expect a tsunami of misinformation,” said Oren Etzioni, an artificial intelligence expert and professor emeritus at the University of Washington. “I hope to be proven wrong. But the ingredients are there, and I am completely terrified.”

Manipulated images and videos surrounding elections are nothing new, but 2024 will be the first U.S. presidential election in which sophisticated AI tools that can produce convincing fakes in seconds are just a few clicks away.

Fabricated images, videos and audio clips known as deepfakes have started making their way into experimental presidential campaign ads. More sinister versions could easily spread without labels and fool people days before an election, Etzioni said.

“You could see a candidate saying things that he or she never actually said," Etzioni said.

Faced with content that is made to look and sound real, “everything that we’ve been wired to do through evolution is going to come into play to have us believe in the fabrication rather than the actual reality,” said misinformation scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Federal Election Commission and Republicans and Democrats in Congress are exploring steps to regulate the technology, but they haven’t finalized any rules or legislation.

A handful of states have passed laws requiring deepfakes to be labeled or banning those that misrepresent candidates. Some social media companies, including YouTube and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, have introduced AI labeling policies. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to consistently catch violators.