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Reps. Sewell and Brown lead bipartisan letter on possible AI Interference in the 2024 Election

During the Republican primary one congressional challenger in Alabama used artificial intelligence to create a fake video of Donald J. Trump endorsing him and denigrating his incumbent opponent. The fake was done in jest, was obviously not real, and was not intended to deceive; but there are fears that rapidly improving AI technology could make real election interference a very real possibility and could be very problematic in this election.

Congresswomen Terri Sewell (D-AL07) and Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) led 31 of their House colleagues in a bipartisan letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Election Assistance Commission (EAC) requesting more information regarding the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to intimidate, threaten, or misinform voters during the 2024 general election.

Sewell warned that AI is currently already being deployed in political ads and communications to generate fake images and audio, and experts have warned of the negative consequences this could have for voting rights and safety and security of our elections.

The letter from Sewell and the other congressmembers states, "despite our country's improved election security, the growing influence of AI software has raised concerns about the potential harm to our democratic process. We urge you to consider all its possible uses and ramifications in the electoral process, including its weaponization by adversaries of the United States." The Sewell-Brown letter also notes "particular concern about the concentrated deception targeted at Black and brown and other minority communities."

"Generations of Americans, including many in Alabama's 7th Congressional District, fought to ensure that every eligible voter can cast their ballot in free and fair elections," said Rep. Sewell. "We cannot allow bad actors to weaponize powerful AI tools to mislead voters, suppress turnout, and sow chaos. With only eight months until November, the time is now for our federal agencies to protect Americans against such threats, especially Black voters who have been disproportionately targeted by election mis-information and dis-information. I thank Congresswoman Brown for leading this effort with me and look forward to learning about the steps being taken by our federal agencies to keep our elections safe and secure."

"AI generated misinformation aimed at voter suppression isn't a theory, it's already happening – and the federal government needs to have a plan to address it," said Rep. Brown. "The technology is new, but often the aims are as old as this country – to impede the rights of Black voters and other minority groups. I am proud to lead this letter with Congresswoman Sewell because we cannot allow any voters to be intimidated, dissuaded, or misled."

The Sewell-Brown letter is endorsed by major civil rights and pro-democracy organizations including the NAACP, the Montgomery based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Issue One.

Cedric C. Haynes is the Vice President for Policy and Legislative Affairs at the NAACP.

"This elusive, unregulated technology has the potential to disrupt our democracy through the spread of mis and disinformation," said Haynes. "That's why the NAACP stands firm in our belief that generative AI must not be used to further this aim. We will continue to educate our communities on this threat, but we can't do this alone. Our government must have a plan and take the lead on addressing and mitigating the danger that generative AI poses."

LaShawn Warren is the Chief Policy Officer at the Southern Poverty Law Center and SPLC Action Fund.

"In the Deep South and across the nation, voters of color are facing so many barriers to exercising their voting power," said Warren. "Increasingly, anti-democracy forces are using artificial intelligence to target, deceive and suppress voters. The Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and the Election Assistance Commission have important roles to play, individually and collectively, to combat the unique threats posed by generative AI. We call on each agency to take urgent and focused action to address these threats and to protect the voting rights of all Americans and the integrity of our elections."

Alex Ault is the Policy Counsel at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"Black and Brown Americans have been the number one target in recent elections for mass dis-information and mis-information campaigns. The widespread adoption of artificial intelligence is no excuse to endure more supercharged attacks on Black power and participation at the ballot box," said Ault. "The Lawyers' Committee applauds Representatives Shontel Brown and Terri Sewell for leading this effort to ensure that the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Election Assistance Committee are taking adequate steps to prepare for the impact of artificial intelligence on this year's elections. The time for action is now. Bad actors cannot hide behind new technologies to attack our democracy with impunity."

Nick Penniman is the CEO of Issue One.

"Artificial intelligence (AI) presents a serious potential threat to the integrity of elections administration," said Penniman. "The misinformation generated by AI and propagated by bad actors will spark a rise in threats against the very individuals who steward our most sacred democratic processes. It will also fuel highly sophisticated voter-suppression efforts and sow doubt about election results. Issue One commends the bipartisan call from lawmakers for federal action focused on safeguarding our elections, and our election administrators, from the potentially harmful impacts of AI."

The letter was signed by the following members of the House of Representatives: Brown (OH-11), Sewell (AL-07), Lawler (NY-17), B. Scott (VA-03), Goldman (NY-10), Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Deluzio (PA-17), Salinas (OR-06), Courtney (CT-02), Dingell (MI-06), Soto (FL-09), Plaskett (VI-AL), Grijalva (AZ-07), Kuster (NH-02), McCollum (MI-04), Schakowsky (IL-09), N. Williams (GA-05), Beyer (VA-08), Balint (VT-AL), Clarke (NY-09), Panetta (CA-19), Larsen (WA-02), Danny Davis (IL-07), Pressley (MA-07), Evans (PA-03), Schiff (CA-30), Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Magaziner (RI-02), Tokuda (HI-02), N. Torres (CA-35), Veasey (TX-33), Kilmer (WA-06), Trahan (MA-03

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