Election laws fighting AI deepfakes need to be targeted and adaptable, report says

Election laws fighting AI deepfakes need to be targeted and adaptable, report says

By Chris Teale, Route Fifty

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A robocall in New Hampshire earlier this year purportedly featuring President Joe Biden urging voters to sit out the primary prompted a state investigation and a federal cease and desist letter. And, as of a few weeks ago, it is now also the subject of a lawsuit from several Granite State voters.

The suit, filed by the League of Women Voters, the group’s New Hampshire chapter and three voters in the state, accuses those behind the robocall of “intimidating, threatening, or coercing, or attempting to intimidate, threaten, or coerce [voters], into not voting in the New Hampshire Primary.”

It further claims that the defendants—political consultant Steve Kramer and two telecom companies, Lingo Telecom and Life Corporation—“orchestrated a deceitful and malicious scheme, bolstered by artificial intelligence and caller ID spoofing” to suppress the vote. The New Hampshire Department of Justice declined to comment on the lawsuit or the case, saying only that its investigation is “ongoing.”

The brouhaha, though, struck a chord with many observers, who say it is an example of the negative role that AI could play in upcoming elections. The NewDEAL Forum, a progressive nonprofit dedicated to spreading policy ideas at the state and local level, said the state’s swift response to the robocall also provides a key takeaway for state and local officials.

“It was spotted, it was dealt with and so there’s a lesson to be learned about how to jump on these things early,” said Debbie Cox Bultan, NewDEAL’s CEO. “State and local leaders need tools, and the public needs tools to help deal with this stuff.”

In a recent report, the group suggests resources available that can be used to combat the threat AI may pose, including from generative AI tools like ChatGPT and others that produce images. It also recommends steps states can take.

To address the use of AI in voter suppression, like through providing false information about voting hours and locations or incorrect biographical details about a candidate, the NewDEAL report recommends state policymakers pass laws requiring “clear labeling” of AI content in campaign ads and materials. The group further urges lawmakers to regulate AI-powered chatbots to ensure they are “not misleading voters.”

On a more practical level, NewDEAL suggests that officials run tabletop exercises to role-play various scenarios that could unfold during election season, and ensure they have rapid response capabilities in place for situations similar to the one in New Hampshire.

Public information campaigns are also critical, the group said, in educating voters about generative AI, especially those in vulnerable communities. Working with trusted leaders in those places, especially faith-based leaders, local businesses and others, can help “cut through the noise” and find accurate information, according to the report.

“Voter suppression and voter confusion is nothing new,” Cox Bultan said. “But there are differences with AI and the potential to spread so much more confusion about what’s real and not real.”

Already, some states have passed laws requiring that political advertisements generated wholly or partly using AI must include a statement disclosing the use of the technology. Michigan was among the first to pass such a law late last year. It also defined AI under state campaign finance laws for the first time, and made it a crime to knowingly distribute AI-generated content for the purpose of harming a candidate’s reputation or electoral prospects in an election occurring within 90 days.

The NewDEAL report specifically recommends that laws that regulate AI include clearly defining it, ensuring legislation covers all synthetic content, having mandatory disclaimers and ensuring that candidates can obtain injunctions against harmful material.

Guaranteeing legislation can adapt to AI’s evolution is crucial, Cox Bultan added. The report notes the technology’s “dynamic nature” and its “exponential growth potential,” meaning that lawmakers need to be able to regularly reevaluate their laws and policies.

It is also key that laws governing AI be focused on the new technology and have “clear intent,” so that they cannot be used to stifle other areas of political speech like satire and so that they do not run afoul of the First Amendment. Cox Bultan said legislators must be “smart, targeted and thoughtful” to make sure there are no constitutional issues with any new regulations.

The New Hampshire state House advanced a bill last week that takes on AI in political ads. In addition to requiring disclosures explaining that an ad’s image, video or audio “has been manipulated or generated by artificial intelligence technology and depicts speech or conduct that did not occur,” the bill also makes exemptions for satire or parody.

But Cox Bultan cautioned that transparency alone is not enough and that lawmakers cannot just rely on the public to spot disclosures on the use of AI. There needs to be “teeth” in the form of enforcement mechanisms, she said, as a way to deter bad actors from using AI for nefarious means.

“Transparency is a word that comes up a lot when we’re having these conversations about AI, whether it’s in elections or in other places,” she said. “Certainly that’s part of the solution. It just can’t be the whole solution.”

While the report primarily deals with the threat posed, its authors recognize the “upside potential” of AI, which, for example, could include the ability to quickly translate campaign literature into other languages.

Cox Bultan said she is “cautiously optimistic” that leaders are taking the issue seriously.

“The fight for democracy is an ongoing one,” she said, “and this is just one more chapter in that book.”

Pennsylvania and other states push to combat AI threat to elections

Pennsylvania and other states push to combat AI threat to elections

By Zachary Roth and John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star

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This year’s presidential election will be the first since generative AI — a form of artificial intelligence that can create new content, including images, audio, and video — became widely available. That’s raising fears that millions of voters could be deceived by a barrage of political deepfakes.

But, while Congress has done little to address the issue, states are moving aggressively to respond — though questions remain about how effective any new measures to combat AI-created disinformation will be.

“I think we’re at a point where we really need to keep an eye on AI being exploited by bad faith actors to spread election misinformation,” Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt told the Capital-Star.

While there could be potential benefits from AI down the road when it comes to voter education, he added, “we saw in 2020, how easily lies spread simply from a tweet, or an email, or a Facebook post. AI has the potential to be far more convincing when it comes to misleading people. And that’s a real concern of mine.”

Last year, a fake, AI-generated audio recording of a conversation between a liberal Slovakian politician and a journalist, in which they discussed how to rig the country’s upcoming election, offered a warning to democracies around the world.

Here in the United States, the urgency of the AI threat was driven home in February, when, in the days before the New Hampshire primary, thousands of voters in the state received a robocall with an AI-generated voice impersonating President Joe Biden, urging them not to vote. A Democratic operative working for a rival candidate has admitted to commissioning the calls.

In response to the call, the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling restricting robocalls that contain AI-generated voices.

Some conservative groups even appear to be using AI tools to assist with mass voter registration challenges — raising concerns that the technology could be harnessed to help existing voter suppression schemes.

“Instead of voters looking to trusted sources of information about elections, including their state or county board of elections, AI-generated content can grab the voters’ attention,” said Megan Bellamy, vice president for law and policy at the Voting Rights Lab, an advocacy group that tracks election-related state legislation. “And this can lead to chaos and confusion leading up to and even after Election Day.”

Disinformation worries

The AI threat has emerged at a time when democracy advocates already are deeply concerned about the potential for “ordinary” online disinformation to confuse voters, and when allies of former president Donald Trump appear to be having success in fighting off efforts to curb disinformation.

But states are responding to the AI threat. Since the start of last year, 101 bills addressing AI and election disinformation have been introduced, according to a March 26 analysis by the Voting Rights Lab.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) sent out a memo on March 12 seeking co-sponsors for a piece of legislation that would prohibit the practice of artificially-generated voices being used for political campaign purposes and establish penalties for those who do.

He told the Capital-Star his legislation isn’t about disallowing robocalls from campaigns, but instead would prohibit  using AI to make voters think they are having personalized conversations with the candidates.

“This is brand new and emerging technology,” Heffley added. “So I think we need to set boundaries about what is ethical and what isn’t.”

A bill from state Rep. Chris Pielli (D-Chester) that would require a disclosure on content generated by artificial intelligence was passed by the House Consumer Protection, Technology & Utilities Committee by a 21-4 margin last week.

“This really is bipartisan or should be perceived as a bipartisan issue,” Pielli told the Capital-Star. “I mean there’s nothing more sacred than keeping our elections fair and free and not being tampered with. And you know, with just three seconds of your voice recorded, current AI technology can have you doing a political speech that you’ve never done.”

Heffley said he was concerned that it would be difficult to get AI legislation passed this session, given the divided Legislature. He added that he’s willing to work with anybody on the matter.

Pielli was a bit more optimistic. “This is a threat. This is a clear and present danger to our republic, to our democracy, our elections,” he said. “And I think both sides will be able to see this and I’m hoping that we will pull together like we always have in the past to face this threat and to protect our citizens.”

On March 27, Oregon became the latest state — after Wisconsin, New Mexico, Indiana and Utah — to enact a law on AI-generated election disinformation. Florida and Idaho lawmakers have passed their own measures, which are currently on the desks of those states’ governors.

Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and Hawaii, meanwhile, have all passed at least one bill — in the case of Arizona, two — through one chamber.

As that list of states makes clear, red, blue, and purple states all have devoted attention to the issue.

States urged to act

Meanwhile, a new report on how to combat the AI threat to elections, drawing on input from four Democratic secretaries of state, was released March 25 by the NewDEAL Forum, a progressive advocacy group.

“(G)enerative AI has the ability to drastically increase the spread of election mis- and disinformation and cause confusion among voters,” the report warned. “For instance, ‘deepfakes’ (AI-generated images, voices, or videos) could be used to portray a candidate saying or doing things that never happened.”

The NewDEAL Forum report urges states to take several steps to respond to the threat, including requiring that certain kinds of AI-generated campaign material be clearly labeled; conducting role-playing exercises to help anticipate the problems that AI could cause; creating rapid-response systems for communicating with voters and the media, in order to knock down AI-generated disinformation; and educating the public ahead of time.

Secretaries of State Steve Simon of Minnesota, Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, Maggie Toulouse Oliver of New Mexico and Adrian Fontes of Arizona provided input for the report. All four are actively working to prepare their states on the issue.

Loopholes seen

Despite the flurry of activity by lawmakers, officials, and outside experts, several of the measures examined in the Voting Rights Lab analysis appear to have weaknesses or loopholes that may raise questions about their ability to effectively protect voters from AI.

Most of the bills require that creators add a disclaimer to any AI-generated content, noting the use of AI, as the NewDEAL Forum report recommends.

But the new Wisconsin law, for instance, requires the disclaimer only for content created by campaigns, meaning deepfakes produced by outside groups but intended to influence an election — hardly an unlikely scenario — would be unaffected.

In addition, the measure is limited to content produced by generative AI, even though experts say other types of synthetic content that don’t use AI, like Photoshop and CGI — sometimes referred to as “cheap fakes” — can be just as effective at fooling viewers or listeners, and can be more easily produced.

For that reason, the NewDEAL Forum report recommends that state laws cover all synthetic content, not just that which use AI.

The Wisconsin, Utah, and Indiana laws also contain no criminal penalties — violations are punishable by a $1000 fine — raising questions about whether they will work as a deterrent.

The Arizona and Florida bills do include criminal penalties. But Arizona’s two bills apply only to digital impersonation of a candidate, meaning plenty of other forms of AI-generated deception — impersonating a news anchor reporting a story, for instance — would remain legal.

And one of the Arizona bills, as well as New Mexico’s law, applied only in the 90 days before an election, even though AI-generated content that appears before that window could potentially still affect the vote.

Experts say the shortcomings exist in large part because, since the threat is so new, states don’t yet have a clear sense of exactly what form it will take.

“The legislative bodies are trying to figure out the best approach, and they’re working off of examples that they’ve already seen,” said Bellamy, pointing to the examples of the Slovakian audio and the Biden robocalls.

“They’re just not sure what direction this is coming from, but feeling the need to do something.”

“I think that we will see the solutions evolve,” Bellamy added. “The danger of that is that AI-generated content and what it can do is also likely to evolve at the same time. So hopefully we can keep up.”

Schmidt noted that Pennsylvania’s Department of State has a page on its website focused on answering voters’ questions, but that it was incumbent on officials to be proactive.

“I’m under no impression that millions of people in Pennsylvania are waking up every day to check the Department of State’s website,” Schmidt said. “It’s important we not be silent. It’s important that we rely on others operating in good faith who want to do their part to strengthen our democracy by encouraging voter participation and education.”

How state lawmakers and election officials are fighting AI deepfakes

How state lawmakers and election officials are fighting AI deepfakes

Priorities Podcast by StateScoop

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On this week’s Priorities podcast, Debbie Cox Bultan, chief executive of NewDeal, a nonprofit that works with government officials on democratic policies, joins us to discuss how state legislators and election officials are combatting AI-generated deepfakes. As states across the country race to pass legislation that targets the production of AI-generated deepfakes in an effort to curb deceptive information practices ahead of the 2024 presidential election, Bultan says tabletop exercises and public information campaigns can also help. New Deal recently released a report that advises election officials on how to mitigate disinformation campaigns in their states.

StateScoop’s Priorities podcast is available every Thursday. Listen more here.

If you want to hear more of the latest across the state and local government technology community, subscribe to the Priorities Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

Celebrating 13 Years of the NewDEAL!

States across the country, including Missouri, rush to combat AI threat to elections

States across the country, including Missouri, rush to combat AI threat to elections

By Zachary Roth, Missouri Independent

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This year’s presidential election will be the first since generative AI — a form of artificial intelligence that can create new content, including images, audio, and video — became widely available. That’s raising fears that millions of voters could be deceived by a barrage of political deepfakes.

But, while Congress has done little to address the issue, states are moving aggressively to respond — though questions remain about how effective any new measures to combat AI-created disinformation will be.

On Wednesday, the Missouri House overwhelmingly approved legislation that would prohibit the distribution of digitally created or manipulated messages that “create a realistic but false image” without labeling it as being created using artificial intelligence.

The penalty envisioned in the Missouri bill would be up to six months in jail, with increased penalties if the intent is to incite violence or bodily harm and for repeat offenders. The bill also grants targets of fake, deceptive videos the right to sue the creators.

Missouri is part of a growing trend.

Last year, a fake, AI-generated audio recording of a conversation between a liberal Slovakian politician and a journalist, in which they discussed how to rig the country’s upcoming election, offered a warning to democracies around the world.

Here in the United States, the urgency of the AI threat was driven home in February, when, in the days before the New Hampshire primary, thousands of voters in the state received a robocall with an AI-generated voice impersonating President Joe Biden, urging them not to vote. A Democratic operative working for a rival candidate has admitted to commissioning the calls.

In response to the call, the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling restricting robocalls that contain AI-generated voices.

Some conservative groups even appear to be using AI tools to assist with mass voter registration challenges — raising concerns that the technology could be harnessed to help existing voter suppression schemes. 

“Instead of voters looking to trusted sources of information about elections, including their state or county board of elections, AI-generated content can grab the voters’ attention,” said Megan Bellamy, vice president for law and policy at the Voting Rights Lab, an advocacy group that tracks election-related state legislation. “And this can lead to chaos and confusion leading up to and even after Election Day.”

 

Disinformation worries

 

The AI threat has emerged at a time when democracy advocates already are deeply concerned about the potential for “ordinary” online disinformation to confuse voters, and when allies of former president Donald Trump appear to be having success in fighting off efforts to curb disinformation.

But states are responding to the AI threat. Since the start of last year, 101 bills addressing AI and election disinformation have been introduced, according to a March 26 analysis by the Voting Rights Lab.

On March 21, Wisconsin became the fourth state — after New Mexico, Indiana and Utah — to enact a law on AI-generated election disinformation. Florida and Idaho lawmakers have passed their own measures, which are currently on the desks of those states’ governors.

Arizona, Georgia and Hawaii, meanwhile, have all passed at least one bill — in the case of Arizona, two — through one chamber.

As that list of states makes clear, red, blue, and purple states all have devoted attention to the issue.

 

States urged to act

 

Meanwhile, a new report on how to combat the AI threat to elections, drawing on input from four Democratic secretaries of state, was released March 25 by the NewDEAL Forum, a progressive advocacy group.

“(G)enerative AI has the ability to drastically increase the spread of election mis- and disinformation and cause confusion among voters,” the report warned. “For instance, ‘deepfakes’ (AI-generated images, voices, or videos) could be used to portray a candidate saying or doing things that never happened.”

The NewDEAL Forum report urges states to take several steps to respond to the threat, including requiring that certain kinds of AI-generated campaign material be clearly labeled; conducting role-playing exercises to help anticipate the problems that AI could cause; creating rapid-response systems for communicating with voters and the media, in order to knock down AI-generated disinformation; and educating the public ahead of time.

Secretaries of State Steve Simon of Minnesota, Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, Maggie Toulouse Oliver of New Mexico and Adrian Fontes of Arizona provided input for the report. All four are actively working to prepare their states on the issue.

 

Loopholes seen

 

Despite the flurry of activity by lawmakers, officials, and outside experts, several of the measures examined in the Voting Rights Lab analysis appear to have weaknesses or loopholes that may raise questions about their ability to effectively protect voters from AI.

Most of the bills require that creators add a disclaimer to any AI-generated content, noting the use of AI, as the NewDEAL Forum report recommends.

But the new Wisconsin law, for instance, requires the disclaimer only for content created by campaigns, meaning deepfakes produced by outside groups but intended to influence an election — hardly an unlikely scenario — would be unaffected.

In addition, the measure is limited to content produced by generative AI, even though experts say other types of synthetic content that don’t use AI, like Photoshop and CGI — sometimes referred to as “cheap fakes” — can be just as effective at fooling viewers or listeners, and can be more easily produced.

For that reason, the NewDEAL Forum report recommends that state laws cover all synthetic content, not just that which use AI.

The Wisconsin, Utah, and Indiana laws also contain no criminal penalties — violations are punishable by a $1000 fine — raising questions about whether they will work as a deterrent.

The Arizona and Florida bills do include criminal penalties. But Arizona’s two bills apply only to digital impersonation of a candidate, meaning plenty of other forms of AI-generated deception — impersonating a news anchor reporting a story, for instance — would remain legal.

And one of the Arizona bills, as well as New Mexico’s law, applied only in the 90 days before an election, even though AI-generated content that appears before that window could potentially still affect the vote.

Experts say the shortcomings exist in large part because, since the threat is so new, states don’t yet have a clear sense of exactly what form it will take.

“The legislative bodies are trying to figure out the best approach, and they’re working off of examples that they’ve already seen,” said Bellamy, pointing to the examples of the Slovakian audio and the Biden robocalls.

“They’re just not sure what direction this is coming from, but feeling the need to do something.”

“I think that we will see the solutions evolve,” Bellamy added. “The danger of that is that AI-generated content and what it can do is also likely to evolve at the same time. So hopefully we can keep up.”

States rush to combat AI threat to elections

States rush to combat AI threat to elections

By Zachary Roth, Georgia Recorder

CLICK TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

This year’s presidential election will be the first since generative AI — a form of artificial intelligence that can create new content, including images, audio, and video — became widely available. That’s raising fears that millions of voters could be deceived by a barrage of political deepfakes.

But, while Congress has done little to address the issue, states are moving aggressively to respond — though questions remain about how effective any new measures to combat AI-created disinformation will be.

Last year, a fake, AI-generated audio recording of a conversation between a liberal Slovakian politician and a journalist, in which they discussed how to rig the country’s upcoming election, offered a warning to democracies around the world.

Here in the United States, the urgency of the AI threat was driven home in February, when, in the days before the New Hampshire primary, thousands of voters in the state received a robocall with an AI-generated voice impersonating President Joe Biden, urging them not to vote. A Democratic operative working for a rival candidate has admitted to commissioning the calls.

In response to the call, the Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling restricting robocalls that contain AI-generated voices.

Some conservative groups even appear to be using AI tools to assist with mass voter registration challenges — raising concerns that the technology could be harnessed to help existing voter suppression schemes. 

“Instead of voters looking to trusted sources of information about elections, including their state or county board of elections, AI-generated content can grab the voters’ attention,” said Megan Bellamy, vice president for law and policy at the Voting Rights Lab, an advocacy group that tracks election-related state legislation. “And this can lead to chaos and confusion leading up to and even after Election Day.”

Disinformation worries

The AI threat has emerged at a time when democracy advocates already are deeply concerned about the potential for “ordinary” online disinformation to confuse voters, and when allies of former president Donald Trump appear to be having success in fighting off efforts to curb disinformation.
But states are responding to the AI threat. Since the start of last year, 101 bills addressing AI and election disinformation have been introduced, according to a March 26 analysis by the Voting Rights Lab.
On March 27, Oregon became the latest state — after Wisconsin, New Mexico, Indiana and Utah — to enact a law on AI-generated election disinformation. Florida and Idaho lawmakers have passed their own measures, which are currently on the desks of those states’ governors.
Arizona, Georgia, Iowa and Hawaii, meanwhile, have all passed at least one bill — in the case of Arizona, two — through one chamber.
As that list of states makes clear, red, blue, and purple states all have devoted attention to the issue.

 

States urged to act

Meanwhile, a new report on how to combat the AI threat to elections, drawing on input from four Democratic secretaries of state, was released March 25 by the NewDEAL Forum, a progressive advocacy group.

“(G)enerative AI has the ability to drastically increase the spread of election mis- and disinformation and cause confusion among voters,” the report warned. “For instance, ‘deepfakes’ (AI-generated images, voices, or videos) could be used to portray a candidate saying or doing things that never happened.”

The NewDEAL Forum report urges states to take several steps to respond to the threat, including requiring that certain kinds of AI-generated campaign material be clearly labeled; conducting role-playing exercises to help anticipate the problems that AI could cause; creating rapid-response systems for communicating with voters and the media, in order to knock down AI-generated disinformation; and educating the public ahead of time.

Secretaries of State Steve Simon of Minnesota, Jocelyn Benson of Michigan, Maggie Toulouse Oliver of New Mexico and Adrian Fontes of Arizona provided input for the report. All four are actively working to prepare their states on the issue.

Loopholes seen

Despite the flurry of activity by lawmakers, officials, and outside experts, several of the measures examined in the Voting Rights Lab analysis appear to have weaknesses or loopholes that may raise questions about their ability to effectively protect voters from AI.

Most of the bills require that creators add a disclaimer to any AI-generated content, noting the use of AI, as the NewDEAL Forum report recommends.

But the new Wisconsin law, for instance, requires the disclaimer only for content created by campaigns, meaning deepfakes produced by outside groups but intended to influence an election — hardly an unlikely scenario — would be unaffected.

In addition, the measure is limited to content produced by generative AI, even though experts say other types of synthetic content that don’t use AI, like Photoshop and CGI — sometimes referred to as “cheap fakes” — can be just as effective at fooling viewers or listeners, and can be more easily produced.

For that reason, the NewDEAL Forum report recommends that state laws cover all synthetic content, not just that which use AI.

The Wisconsin, Utah, and Indiana laws also contain no criminal penalties — violations are punishable by a $1000 fine — raising questions about whether they will work as a deterrent.

The Arizona and Florida bills do include criminal penalties. But Arizona’s two bills apply only to digital impersonation of a candidate, meaning plenty of other forms of AI-generated deception — impersonating a news anchor reporting a story, for instance — would remain legal.

And one of the Arizona bills, as well as New Mexico’s law, applied only in the 90 days before an election, even though AI-generated content that appears before that window could potentially still affect the vote.

Experts say the shortcomings exist in large part because, since the threat is so new, states don’t yet have a clear sense of exactly what form it will take.

“The legislative bodies are trying to figure out the best approach, and they’re working off of examples that they’ve already seen,” said Bellamy, pointing to the examples of the Slovakian audio and the Biden robocalls.

“They’re just not sure what direction this is coming from, but feeling the need to do something.”

“I think that we will see the solutions evolve,” Bellamy added. “The danger of that is that AI-generated content and what it can do is also likely to evolve at the same time. So hopefully we can keep up.”

How state lawmakers, election officials are fighting AI deepfakes

How state lawmakers, election officials are fighting AI deepfakes

By Sophia Fox-Sowell, State Scoop

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States are racing to pass legislation that targets the production of AI-generated deepfakes in an effort to curb deceptive information practices ahead of the 2024 presidential election, new research shows.

Voting Rights Lab, a nonpartisan organization that analyzes election-related legislation, is tracking more than 100 bills in 40 state legislatures introduced or passed this year that intend to regulate artificial intelligence’s potential to produce election disinformation.

Megan Bellamy, vice president of law and policy at Voting Rights Lab, said some of these laws aim to provide transparency around AI-generated content, while others seek to penalize those that use AI to intentionally mislead voters.

“2024 is the first American presidential election year at the intersection of election-related myths and disinformation that have been on the rise and the rapid growth of AI-generated content,” Bellamy told StateScoop in a recent interview about Voting Rights Lab’s legislative analysis, which was released Tuesday.

Deepfakes, a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake,” are synthetic audio, images or videos created to replicate a person’s likeness, usually by AI.

In February, robocalls using an AI-generated voice impersonating President Joe Biden reached thousands of New Hampshire voters ahead of the state’s primary, falsely informing them that they would lose their ability to vote in the general election.

“It’s a very fast-paced, constantly changing landscape when it comes to AI-generated content,” Bellamy said. “So once legislators realized this could really be negatively impactful in a presidential election, they started taking action.”

‘Unknown area’ of AI legislation

Bellamy said legislation passed in three states – Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin – are good examples of the different types of regulatory trends Voting Rights Lab sees gaining momentum across state legislatures.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers last week signed a bill requiring groups affiliated with political campaigns to add disclaimers to any content made with generative AI. Failure to comply is punishable by a $1,000 fine for each violation.

Bellamy said Wisconsin’s law is less restrictive than others and that it doesn’t address misinformation threats from people or groups not affiliated with political campaigns.

“AI-generated content can grab the voter’s attention, reach them faster and spread in more of a viral way than state board of elections and county board of elections and all of these trusted sources can overcome,” Bellamy said. “So they really do have an opportunity to impact the election — plus, they’re persuasive.”

In Florida, a bill awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature would also require disclaimers for AI-generated political ads and election-related materials, with penalties of up to one year of incarceration.

In Arizona, two bills that have gained traction would aim to balance government regulation of AI-generated election content with the First Amendment and other federal laws, such as Section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act, which allows exceptions for media, satire or parody, internet providers and public figures.

One of the Arizona bills would make the failure to label AI-generated political media a felony for repeat offenses or offenses committed with the intent to cause violence or bodily harm. The other legislation would allow an aggrieved party to file a civil suit against the content creator and sometimes receive financial restitution.

“The Arizona Legislature is essentially seeking to prevent a scenario like what happens in Slovakia,” said Bellamy, referring to an incident in 2023 when audio recordings using false AI-generated conversations about election rigging were released two days before the country’s election day.

Not every state has passed legislation on AI-generated content for political campaigns, but Bellamy said she expects to see more state legislatures taking the issue up.

“There’s a wide variety of approaches, even among the states that have started to grapple with the issue. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach at this point,” she said. “It’s really an unknown area that legislators are trying to solve.”

Non-legislative tools

Debbie Cox Bultan, the chief executive of NewDeal, a nonprofit that works with government officials on democratic policies, said legislation addressing AI-generated deepfakes is just one tool states can use to combat election-related misinformation. The organization recently released a report that advises elections administrators how to mitigate disinformation campaigns in their states.

One such measure, Bultan said, is incident response preparation, or tabletop exercises, which can help educate and prepare election workers for real-world scenarios in which they’d need to quickly stop the spread of false information.

“What happens if there is any kind of deepfake or other AI-related thing that sows chaos or confusion to the election? Who’s responsible for what? What’s the communications that needs to happen with voters?” Bultan said. “ That’s happening in a lot of states and I think is a super important way that elected officials can be prepared.”

Bultan said several secretaries of state are using the months before the election to lead public information campaigns that educate voters about the threats deepfakes present. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has started a public awareness campaign to educate voters about deepfakes and provides information on trusted election resources.

“There’s always been efforts to suppress vote or to sow chaos in elections. These are just new tools to do that,” Bultan said. “So I think it’s really important we get on top of this now.”

Bultan said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is also trying to educate the public.

“Benson is engaging trusted community leaders, like faith-based leaders and others, to make sure that they have information that they can share with people in their communities as a trusted voice in those communities,” Bultan said. “We haven’t seen elections where [generative AI] has the potential to really cause some chaos, disinformation, misinformation. And that’s something our secretaries in particular are concerned about. This is an all hands on deck situation.”

The American Rescue Plan Is (Still) Worth Celebrating

The American Rescue Plan Is (Still) Worth Celebrating

By Debbie Cox Bultan, The Well News

CLICK TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Just three years ago, our economy was in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. Communities across the nation were reeling not only from the health implications of the COVID pandemic, but also from high unemployment, business closures and frightening economic uncertainty.

Bold and decisive action was needed.

In March 2021, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law, setting the stage for local, state and federal cooperation to heal our nation. On the third anniversary of this landmark legislation, we should reflect on the lessons of the law for how we approach future economic crises, because even three years later, the impact continues to benefit people across the country.

On the national level, ARPA catalyzed a broad and equitable economic recovery. When signed into law, the nation’s unemployment rate was 6.1%. ARPA spurred historic job growth, with nearly 14 million jobs created since then, and an unemployment rate consistently below 4%. And the recovery saw historic drops in the Black and Hispanic unemployment rates, ensuring communities everywhere benefited from the law.

Furthermore, the law helped more than 8 million people stay in their homes, brought down the cost of health care, led to the lowest child poverty rates in American history and helped more than 200,000 child care centers remain open.

That alone was historic. Yet national data doesn’t show the whole picture. One of the key successes of ARPA was to make possible investments in durable progress. Elected officials — from city council members to mayors to state legislators — are still using ARPA funds to bring about long-lasting benefits to their communities.

As CEO of NewDEAL, I hear stories about this progress every day from our network of 200 state and local leaders.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Mayor Kate Gallego used ARPA funds to provide Wi-Fi access and digital literacy support to residents in public and affordable housing communities for the next three years, benefiting nearly 5,000 low-income households across the city.

In Boston, Massachusetts, Mayor Michelle Wu is extending a fare-free bus program designed to help residents along corridors with a high percentage of low-income riders to help those who need it most get to and from their jobs.

In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Mayor Cavalier Johnson is using ARPA funds to more quickly help families in homes with lead pipes and lead paint. Using $25 million from ARPA, the city is partnering with groups like Habitat for Humanity and others to increase the rate of lead abatement projects to protect children and families in vulnerable housing.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird steered ARPA funds to partnerships with local hospitals and agencies to create pathways to train more nurses and child care professionals. These jobs will not only help residents today, but will ensure Lincoln has the workforce that will allow the city to thrive in the years to come.

ARPA is a testament to our nation’s resilience and capacity to come together in times of crisis. It shows the power of leadership at all levels that listens, understands and acts in the community’s best interest. The funding, which runs through the end of this year, will continue to be a driving force behind our nation’s economic recovery.

As voters head to the polls later this year, Democrats need to actively call attention to the widespread success of investments like ARPA, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. They must emphasize, over and over, that Democrats are the only ones serious about both governing and addressing the problems Americans care about. Across the country, these Democrat-led initiatives are fixing bridges, building affordable housing, creating manufacturing jobs and showing that government can expand economic opportunity for everyone.

At the same time, Republicans have shown repeatedly that they are not serious about governing, repeatedly prioritizing culture war politics at every level, from book bans in the states to their fact-free impeachment circuses in Washington, rather than seeking productive solutions to the real challenges facing Americans. Among other things, that approach has made this Congress “the most unproductive in decades.”

ARPA stands as a shining example of how, across all levels of governing, Democrats are delivering and solving problems. And this November, voters will have a clear choice of whether this kind of progress is possible moving forward.


Debbie Cox Bultan has 25 years of experience in center-left politics, public policy and nonprofit leadership. As CEO of NewDEAL, she oversees both strategy and day-to-day operations for the organization. She previously served as executive director for the Civic Leadership Foundation, a Chicago, Illinois-based nonprofit that prepares underserved youth for college, career and civic life. Prior to helping launch NewDEAL, she spent 15 years at the Democratic Leadership Council where she served in a number of capacities, including national political director and chief of staff. Among her accomplishments at the DLC was developing a network of, and policy tools for, state and local elected officials across the country. You can reach out on Twitter @debbiecoxbultan and @newdealleaders.

The American Rescue Plan is worth celebrating in Michigan

Opinion: The American Rescue Plan is worth celebrating in Michigan

By Winnie Brinks, The ‘Gander

CLICK TO READ THE FULL ARTICLE

In politics, a week can feel like a lifetime. So it is no surprise that the American Rescue Plan, signed into law three years ago, is not top of mind in our collective memories. However, it was not that long ago that our communities faced an unprecedented crisis.

From communities in Michigan, where I have the honor of serving as the state’s Senate majority leader, to cities and towns across the country, Americans were reeling not only from the health implications of the COVID pandemic, but with economic impacts as well. We all remember the high rate of unemployment, businesses on the brink of closing, and the cloud of uncertainty hanging over us. Americans were hurting, and we needed bold, decisive action.

In March 2021, Democrats in Congress and President Biden delivered the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), setting the stage for local, state, and federal cooperation to heal our nation. On the third anniversary of this landmark legislation, it is imperative to reflect on the positive impact this law continues to have here in Michigan and across the country.

In Michigan, we are investing the $6.5 billion from ARPA into programs that not only help residents in the midst of a crisis, but will help our communities grow and prosper for years to come.

During the height of COVID recovery, access to child care was one of the greatest threats to enabling parents to get back to work. That’s why Gov. Whitmer invested $365 million from ARPA to provide both bonuses to childcare professionals as well as operational grants directly to child care businesses. The funding helped more than 5,500 child care providers across the state so they could remain open during the hardest of times, and continue today to provide high-quality child care.

Federal funds from ARPA continue to flow into Michigan, and Governor Whitmer has since gained productive partners in Michigan’s new Democratic majorities in the Senate and House. In June, the Small Business Support Hubs program was announced, which will provide $75 million of investment for the state’s small business ecosystem. The goal is to both increase the number of businesses who have access to various support services, as well as cultivate a more inclusive and integrated system for small business entrepreneurs. We have been able to appropriate funds to increase our state’s environmental sustainability, workforce and economic development, public safety, and so much more.

And Michigan is not alone in making improvements with ARPA funds. In Phoenix, Mayor Kate Gallego approved the use of $3 million of ARPA funds to provide free Wi-Fi access in public and affordable housing communities for the next three years, benefitting nearly 5,000 low-income households across the city.

In Milwaukee, Mayor Cavalier Johnson is using $25 million of ARPA funds to provide faster help to families in homes with lead pipes and lead paint.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird steered ARPA funds to partnerships with local hospitals and agencies to create pathways to train more nurses and childcare professionals. These jobs will not only help residents today, but will ensure Lincoln has the kind of workforce that will allow the city to thrive in the years to come.

Beyond these stories, national figures show the breadth and depth of ARPA’s success. When signed into law, the nation’s unemployment rate was 6.%1. Since then, nearly 14 million jobs have been created and the nation’s unemployment rate has been below 4% for 24 consecutive months, a feat not accomplished since 1967. And the recovery saw historic drops in the Black and Hispanic unemployment rates, ensuring communities everywhere benefited from the law.

Furthermore, the law helped more than 8 million people stay in their homes, brought down the cost of health care, and led to the lowest child poverty rates in American history, and helped more than 200,000 child care centers remain open.

As voters head to the polls later this year, Democratic candidates cannot rely on a media focused on horse-race politics and the scandal-of-the-day to remind voters about these accomplishments. We need to actively call attention to the widespread success of game-changing investments like ARPA, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Across the country, these initiatives are fixing bridges, increasing manufacturing jobs, and rebuilding an economy that the last president left in shambles.

And we’re not done. NewDEAL Leaders, a group of 200 forward-thinking, pragmatic state and local elected officials of which I am a part, continues to push forward on issues such as access to broadband, equitable education, and preserving our American commitment to free and fair elections.

The future we see is one of possibilities and an even better quality of life. Our opponents paint a future full of fear and chaos. As Democrats deliver on policy after policy to improve Americans’ daily lives, Republicans are actively working to strip away basic freedoms from residents. From banning books to banning reproductive care, Republicans are obsessed with the government controlling people, rather than providing the tools necessary for families to thrive.

ARPA is a testament to our nation’s resilience in times of crisis, and the possibilities we have before us when we work in good faith on behalf of the American people.

American Rescue Plan ‘Keeps Delivering Positive Results’: NewDEAL Highlights ARPA’s Continued Success on Law’s Third Anniversary

For Immediate Release:

DATE:  March 11, 2024

Contact: Jared DeWese (NewDEAL), 202-660-1340 x 5, jared@newdealleaders.org

American Rescue Plan ‘Keeps Delivering Positive Results’: NewDEAL 

Highlights ARPA’s Continued Success on Law’s Third Anniversary

NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan touts a new report showing how the American Rescue Plan continues to strengthen communities.

Washington, D.C. – In March of 2021, with the nation still reeling from the COVID pandemic’s catastrophic economic and health impacts, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARPA) into law. On today’s third anniversary of its enactment, NewDEAL has released a report highlighting the continued positive impact of the law, featuring case studies from ten cities and towns across the nation and recapping three years of progress driven by ARPA’s state and local recovery funds..

“Three years ago, the nation needed bold, decisive action in the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic, and President Biden and Congressional Democrats delivered,” NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan said on Monday. “The American Rescue Plan trusted state and local leaders to implement programs tailored to address the specific needs of their communities on issues ranging from housing to childcare to keeping small businesses open. And three years later, ARPA keeps delivering positive results.”

In the midst of the pandemic, ARPA helped more than eight million people stay in their homes, brought down the cost of health care, led to the lowest child poverty rates in American history, and helped more than 200,000 childcare centers remain open. In addition, America has created nearly 14 million new jobs and experienced historically low unemployment.

“National data shows that ARPA has worked, and there are stories from across the country about how it has allowed leaders like Providence Mayor Brett Smiley, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, and Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to deliver tangible results for their residents,” Bultan added. “Three years later, it is clear that ARPA is a model for how to respond to an economic crisis. This new report highlights how government works best when federal, state, and local officials work hand-in-hand with the same goal of building a better America for today and tomorrow.”

NewDEAL’s report on ARPA’s third anniversary highlights ten projects that started or were significantly expanded over the past year. These projects include:

  • Phoenix, AZ: Mayor Kate Gallego used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand free Wi-Fi coverage in Phoenix, reaching 1.18 square miles around key public facilities. She also provided free broadband access in affordable housing developments, benefiting 5,000 low-income households.
  • Boston, MA: Leveraging American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Mayor Michelle Wu is investing in sustainable career pathways in Boston. These include PowerCorps, which trains underemployed individuals for careers in the green industry, and the Boston Sciences Workforce Initiative, which will provide training and support for workers to enter the biotech and life sciences industry.
  • New Bedford, MA: Made possible through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds, Mayor Jon Mitchell celebrated the groundbreaking for the new NorthStar Early Learning Academy, which will accommodate over 130 preschoolers and also serve as a community gathering place.
  • Kansas City, MO: Mayor Quinton Lucas allocated over $15 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to a city Housing Trust Fund, financing 26 projects to create hundreds of affordable units for vulnerable residents.
  • Lincoln, NE: Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird leveraged funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to make tangible progress on the “Water 2.0: Securing Lincoln’s Second Source” project, which aims to ensure the city’s long-term water sustainability.
  • Manchester, NH: Building on earlier investments in affordable housing construction, former Mayor Joyce Craig approved $3.8 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and HOME funds for Affordable and Supportive Housing Initiatives, aimed at creating 188 units of affordable housing, reopening a women’s shelter, and sustaining a housing voucher program.
  • Cleveland, OH: Mayor Justin Bibb used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds as seed funding to enact a pioneering initiative, the Neighborhood Safety Fund, to promote community-driven programs to reduce violence in the city.
  • Scranton, PA: Following a flash flood in September 2023, Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti leveraged American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to establish a disaster relief fund to provide up to $5,000 for eligible households and businesses for recovery efforts.
  • Providence, RI: Mayor Brett Smiley has strategically deployed $4.3 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding over the past year to address housing issues in the city, creating or extending 444 emergency shelter beds and earmarking an additional $1.7 million to aid over 600 households with emergency housing support.
  • Newport News, VA: Mayor Phillip Jones used American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to invest in a new early childhood center to alleviate the city’s lack of affordable childcare. The center will provide sliding-scale tuition to serve up to 200 children and will prepare the next generation of childcare professionals through an on-site training program.

“When families and the economy were hurting in the aftermath of the pandemic, Democrats delivered,” Bultan said. “And those investments are still delivering to this day.”

About NewDEAL

The NewDEAL supports a network of about 200 state and local officials—statewide officials, legislators, mayors, council members, and other local leaders across the country—who are pro-growth progressives. The organization brings together leaders focused on expanding opportunity, helping them develop and spread innovative ideas to spur broadly earned and sustainable economic growth.