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FCC is considering AI rules for political ads

<i>Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images/File via CNN Newsource
Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel

By Brian Fung, CNN

Washington (CNN) — The Federal Communications Commission is taking initial steps toward new rules that could require political ads on TV and radio to include disclaimers about the use of artificial intelligence.

On Wednesday, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called on other agency commissioners to support such regulations amid growing fears that AI-generated deepfakes could disrupt elections.

“As artificial intelligence tools become more accessible, the Commission wants to make sure consumers are fully informed when the technology is used,” Rosenworcel said in a news release. “Today, I’ve shared with my colleagues a proposal that makes clear consumers have a right to know when AI tools are being used in the political ads they see, and I hope they swiftly act on this issue.”

Wednesday’s proposal aims to open a rulemaking process at the FCC that would likely take months to play out.

The proposal calls for new rules governing broadcast TV and radio, as well as cable and satellite providers. Under the proposed rules, political advertisers on those mediums would have to make on-air disclosures if their ads contain AI-generated content. The FCC does not regulate internet-based media such as streaming video services or social media.

As part of the proposed rule, political advertisers would also have to provide written disclosures in the files that broadcasters are required to make available to the public.

The FCC move seeks to fill a yawning gap in the regulation of artificial intelligence in political advertising.

Existing US election law prohibits campaigns from “fraudulently misrepresenting other candidates or political parties,” but whether this prohibition extends to AI-generated content is an open question.

Last summer, Republicans on the Federal Election Commission blocked a move that could have made clear the law extended to AI-created depictions; the FEC has since agreed to revive the discussion, but it has not reached a decision on the matter.

In the meantime, some US lawmakers have proposed legislation that could clamp down on AI in elections. In March, a bipartisan proposal by Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski unveiled the AI Transparency in Elections Act, which could require AI disclaimers on political ads.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, has stressed the urgent need for Congress to create guardrails for artificial intelligence, particularly for elections. Last week, he and a bipartisan group of senators released a blueprint for legislative action. But many policy analysts doubt that Congress can pass meaningful AI legislation during an election year.

Online platforms such as Meta have taken their own steps to address AI in political ads, requiring campaigns to disclose the use of deepfakes and banning the use of its in-house generative AI tools for political advertising.

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