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Schumer endorses guardrails for AI use in elections, considers candidate pledge

Senate Majority Leader says that if “government-imposed guardrails” on AI in elections aren’t put in place, “the lowest common denominator will prevail.”
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing titled "AI and The Future of Our Elections" on Capitol Hill September 27, 2023 in Washington, DC. The hearing focused on what effect Artificial Intelligence can have on the 2024 election and future elections in America.
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Guidelines for political candidates’ use of artificial intelligence are in the works and may even be in place for the 2024 elections, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday. 

Speaking at a summit hosted by The Washington Post, the New York Democrat endorsed guardrails for AI use during elections, acknowledging the ability for the technology to deceive voters and obstruct the process, specifically the 2024 presidential race. 

Schumer referenced a suggestion — and column — from the Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler, who proposed an election pledge for candidates to label AI-generated communications and avoid AI use to misrepresent competitors or confuse citizens on voting procedures.

It’s possible that “most candidates will make that pledge, but the ones that won’t will drive us to a lower common denominator,” Schumer said. “If there’s so much good that could come out of AI, there’s also so much harm. If we don’t have government-imposed guardrails, the lowest common denominator will prevail.”

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Schumer, who announced an upcoming forum focused on AI and the workforce and teased another featuring lawmakers coming “rather soon,” said that establishing guardrails on AI use ahead of the 2024 presidential election must be prioritized. 

“(We) need to deal with election reform and making sure our elections are not so totally jaundiced, perverted that no one believes anything anymore,” Schumer said. 

During the event, the Post’s Fowler displayed how AI could be used to misrepresent government leaders, imitating Schumer’s likeness through images and audio and showing AI-generated photos of the lawmaker endorsing a faux presidential candidacy of Spider-Man.

Schumer, after referencing Fowler’s presentation, called for “significant resources” toward AI and emphasized the current efforts from Congress to keep governance on the technology both bipartisan and timely. 

“If we don’t move forward, it will lead to not only a different dominant system of AI with different values, but will fall behind economically rather dramatically,” Schumer said. “So we’ve really made great progress in terms of now getting a bipartisan consensus.”

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Fowler, meanwhile, said “confusion and chaos” in elections could ensue if AI is left unchecked by lawmakers, pointing again to his presentation.

“I could do all of this on stage with you in a matter of minutes,” Fowler said. “What could someone do if they really wanted to disturb democracy?”

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