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Wisconsin legislature passes laws restricting AI-produced deepfake campaign materials

States gear up for general election with new bills regulating AI "deepfakes" in campaign materials, amid a surge in AI integration in campaign ads and voter engagement efforts.

Ahead of the general election, more states are proactively introducing new bills to regulate the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) created "deepfakes," or digitally altered videos or images, in their campaign materials.

Advanced generative AI tools, ranging from voice-cloning software to image generators, have swiftly become fixtures in election cycles both domestically and internationally.

In the lead-up to the 2024 presidential race last year, a wave of innovation saw the integration of AI-generated audio and imagery in campaign ads, alongside ventures into AI chatbots to cultivate voter engagement.

This week, Wisconsin joined 20 other states that have either introduced or passed election laws requiring election campaigns to disclose when advertisements are AI-generated. 

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of state assemblymembers passed two bills tackling AI use in election cycles by a voice vote.

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI)?

The first bill, AB 664, mandates all audio and video communications to bear the label "Contains content generated by AI," with violators risking penalties of up to $1,000 per offense.

One of the chief architects of the bill, Democrat Rep. Clinton Anderson, said on the floor, "We want voters to know that what you see is what you get."

Rep. Adam Neylon, another coauthor of the bill, said during the vote, "With artificial intelligence, it’s getting harder and harder to know what is true."

The second bill, AB 1068, mandates Wisconsin state agencies to conduct audits on AI tool usage to evaluate efficiency. These audits encompass tool inventories, guideline summaries, privacy policies, and data usage. Additionally, agencies must report to the legislature in 2026 on state employee positions that AI could optimize, aiming to cut jobs that could be more efficient utilizing AI by 2030.

Ahead of the vote, Republican Rep. Nate Gustafson reportedly said it's "flat out false" that the law would be used to replace state workers' jobs. 

REPORT WARNS DEEPFAKES TO BE INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM REALITY AS EARLY AS 2024

States with the biggest AI tech giants, California and New York, have the most bills filed in their state legislatures, Axios reported. 

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission made AI-generated robocallsmimicking the voices of political candidates to fool voters illegal. The FCC ruling, which takes effect immediately, makes voice cloning technology used in common robocall scams targeting consumers illegal. 

The decision was announced days after New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella revealed that nefarious robocalls with an AI-generated clone of President Biden's voice urging recipients not to participate in the January 23 primaries – and instead save their votes for the November election – had been traced to two Texas companies. 

"In the end, the threat posed by AI to the American election system is no different than the use of malware and ransomware deployed by nation-states and organized crime groups against our personal and corporate networks on a daily basis," Optiv vice president of cyber risk James Turgal told Fox News Digital in an interview this month. 

"The battle to mitigate these threats can and should be fought by both the United States government and the private sector."

Fox News' Daniel Wallace and Nikolas Lanum contributed to this report. 

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