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AI-Powered Attack Ads: The New Frontier of Political Campaigns?

President Biden’s reelection bid announcement was swiftly met with a Republican National Committee (RNC) attack ad that utilized artificial intelligence to create apocalyptic imagery. The ad, which asked viewers to imagine the consequences of reelecting “the weakest president we’ve ever had,” featured AI-generated scenes reminiscent of the video game The Last of Us. According to the RNC, this marks the first time the organization has employed AI in its video creation process.

As we approach the 2024 presidential race, we can expect AI to play an increasingly significant role in political campaigns. While AI tools have long been utilized for voter canvassing, recent advancements in generative AI, such as ChatGPT and Midjourney, have elevated the technology’s realism to new heights. In fact, AI-generated images and audio featuring prominent figures, like the Pope or former President Trump, have gone viral due to their shockingly realistic nature.

Generative AI technology has not only improved dramatically since the last election, but access to these programs has skyrocketed as well. For example, ChatGPT became the fastest-growing consumer app in history after amassing 100 million users within two months. This widespread accessibility, combined with social media platforms’ lenient policies on AI-generated political content, raises concerns about the potential for rampant misinformation during the upcoming election cycle.

However, some experts argue that misinformation has been thriving without AI’s help. Chris Meserole, a Brookings Institution fellow, pointed out that recent presidential elections have already seen high levels of human-written misinformation. He expects the next election to look similar to those of 2020 and 2016. Furthermore, while there were concerns during the 2020 presidential election about deep fakes causing chaos and confusion among voters, those fears ultimately didn’t materialize.

Nonetheless, as AI technology continues to advance and becomes more accessible, its influence on political campaigns and potential to spread misinformation cannot be ignored. The 2024 election may well serve as a testing ground for the impact of AI-generated content in the political arena.