On May 3rd, the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) put the newest addition to its Code of Ethics to the vote. In an unanimous decision, all AAPC directors condemned the use of generative AI content in political campaigns.
The condemnation goes beyond mere social censure: the use of generative AI or “deepfake” technology will constitute a violation of the AAPC’s Code of Ethics, will be subject to fines, and it will render a campaign ineligible for their internal “Pollie” awards.
Generative AI Content in Politics: What’s the Risk?
Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has been developing quietly in the background for over a decade. However, the last two years have seen AI technology make significant strides. It is now easy to use with very little training -- and where it used to be an “add-on” that could simplify or refine some tasks, it can now create audiovisual content seemingly out of “thin air.”
For many artists, this is a worrisome development. But in politics, its use could easily jump into dangerous territory. AI can now create increasingly realistic photos, videos, and audio clips. These “deepfakes” cannot be spotted by the naked eye, and could easily help derail the political conversation away from facts, while simultaneously killing the public’s trust in political institutions.
One of the earliest alarms dates back from 2020, when a British broadcaster showed the late Queen Elizabeth issuing an “alternative” Christmas speech, featuring a series of impossibly acrobatic dance moves. This video used no actress to portray the Queen, and no humans to imitate her voice, and yet it looked enough like her to give us pause.
Three years later, the technology has improved further, and it would now be technically possible to show politicians, public figures, or mobs of “regular citizens” doing or saying anything. In the immediate term, these images can be used to mobilize voters or incite panic. According to the AAPC, the overabundance of misleading content could erode the public-s confidence in “the basic truthfulness of political campaigns.”
The AAPC Is Tackling the Bull by the Horns
Not every use of Generative AI aims directly to deceive or confuse the public. Just three days before the AAPC’s announcement, Amnesty International received heavy criticism after they used AI-generated images on a social media post about the 2021 protests in Colombia. Amnesty International first defended the decision, saying they meant to “protect the identities” of protesters, before taking them down.
But its proliferation may make us question whether anything we see is real or not, and create an unstable political atmosphere. For the AAPC, this is risky enough, and has therefore decided to condemn any use of Generative AI as part of political campaigns.
In their latest press release, this is presented as an extension to their existing Professional Code of Ethics, which bans the use of false or misleading statements. The full statement also:
Renders any generative AI content ineligible for AAPC awards (the Pollies)
Asks all media and advertising platforms to refuse to carry “deepfake” content or ads
Establishes a process to report its use
Sets a series of possible fines for members who use generative AI
States that simply adding a disclaimer on deepfake content is not enough to meet ethical guidelines
It’s not funny, and can be dangerous
Finally, the AAPC also addressed the possible use of Generative AI in political satire and parody. For the AAPC, political satire is a fundamental facet of free speech, and as an organization, they are committed to defend it. However, they are unequivocal in their opinion: AI Generative content is not a part of the “long standing tradition” of comedic impersonation, and they will not defend its use.
The American Association of Political Consultants is the largest network of political and public affairs professionals in the United States. Its over 1,600 members come from all countries and political persuasions. The organization itself is multi partisan, and devoted mainly to preserving democracy and free speech.
Grassroots Pulse covers public policy and political issues aimed at engaging highly-active policy makers, donors, and grassroots leaders at the forefront of the political process in America today.
Image Credit: Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash