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Sen. Amy Klobuchar wants to ban deceptive AI in elections

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May 13, 2024
Senator Amy Klobuchar speaks behind the dais at a hearing

Klobuchar in 2023. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Amy Klobuchar says it's time to establish clear-cut rules for the use of artificial intelligence in political advertising.

The big picture: The Senate Rules Committee will mark up three bipartisan, Klobuchar-sponsored AI and elections bills Wednesday at 10am ET.

Why it matters: Klobuchar isn't waiting for an official green light from the bipartisan AI working group led by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get moving on AI bills.

  • That report, which is meant to guide committees on AI topics and bills to take up, is expected to be released soon.

What they're saying: Klobuchar said the rise of deepfakes and manipulated media in political ads means Congress needs to act fast, and it's her goal to get legislation passed before the 2024 presidential election.

  • "This is what I like to call a 'hair on fire' issue.
  • "With the election approaching, regardless of when the framework comes out, and I hope it will be soon, I anticipate democracy and election-related AI will be a major part of [the report]. We just have to get moving on these."
  • Schumer and Klobuchar have discussed her AI and elections bills, she said: "I've had extensive conversations with [Schumer] about the bills, and with [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell about them too. This is the only committee in the Senate they both serve on — what could go wrong?"

Flashback: This isn't Klobuchar's first foray into updating election law for the digital age. Starting before the 2020 election, Klobuchar and the late Sen. John McCain tried to pass the Honest Ads Act, giving online political ads the same disclosure rules as TV, radio and print.

  • Tech companies pushed back hard and rolled out their own political advertising databases instead. Some stopped accepting political advertising altogether.
  • Klobuchar rolled out a new version of the bill this year.
  • Klobuchar and Sen. Susan Collins also recently urged the Election Assistance Commission to allow election officials to use federal election funds to counter AI-fueled disinformation.

State of play: Klobuchar said there's more support for bills to regulate AI and elections from companies and members of Congress this time around.

  • "This one has been different because a lot of the companies from the beginning have said we need regulation in general, and that's not a normal situation," she said.

What's next: There will be bipartisan House companion legislation for the bill that bans materially deceptive AI-generated content in election ads, Klobuchar said.

  • "I think we all know the biggest abuse of this would occur in the fall, which is why we want to get this done immediately."

What we're watching: Klobuchar said the bills could go along with any legislative package that comes out of the AI working group framework, or be grouped with other tech bills on topics like privacy.

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