Hillary Clinton, election officials warn AI could threaten elections

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought some sort of federal regulation over AI and elections.
AP/PTI(AP03_12_2024_000352A) (AP)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought some sort of federal regulation over AI and elections. AP/PTI(AP03_12_2024_000352A) (AP)


“Anybody who’s not worried is not paying attention,” Clinton said.

Hillary Clinton and U.S. election officials said they are concerned disinformation generated and spread by artificial intelligence could threaten the 2024 presidential election.

Clinton, a former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate, said she thinks foreign actors like Russian President Vladimir Putin could use AI to interfere in elections in the U.S. and elsewhere. Dozens of countries are running elections this year.

“Anybody who’s not worried is not paying attention," Clinton said Thursday at Columbia University, where election officials and tech executives discussed how AI could impact global elections.

She added: “It could only be a very small handful of people in St. Petersburg or Moldova or wherever they are right now who are lighting the fire, but because of the algorithms everyone gets burned."

Clinton said Putin tried to undermine her before the 2016 election by spreading disinformation on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat about “all these terrible things" she purportedly did.

“I don’t think any of us understood it," she said. “I did not understand it. I can tell you my campaign did not understand it. The so-called dark web was filled with these kinds of memes and stories and videos of all sorts portraying me in all kinds of less than flattering ways."

Clinton added: “What they did to me was primitive and what we’re talking about now is the leap in technology."

A bipartisan Senate report found that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump. Russia repeatedly has denied interfering in the 2016 election.

The 2024 election cycle is the first where officials are preparing to respond on a broad scale to disinformation created and spread by AI. People could use AI to disseminate images, audio and videos that misinform voters about their polling place, voting day or how to turn in their ballots.

While election disinformation has been a longtime issue, AI could help it spread faster, election administrators say.

At Columbia, election officials said they were worried about deepfake videos—deceptive videos designed to look real—that could lead people to believe false information.

“Now we’re facing an election cycle where those lies will be turbocharged through AI," said Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s secretary of state and a Democrat.

There is no federal ban on AI-generated content that can influence voters. Michigan is one of a handful of states that have passed laws to limit the use of AI to sway voters.

Michael Chertoff, the U.S. homeland-security secretary under George W. Bush, said he thinks people could make videos with AI that attempt to discredit the election system. “We could have another January 6th," the Republican said, referring to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

One of the first tests for handling AI-generated disinformation came in New Hampshire in January. A robocall with a voice that sounded like President Biden’s told recipients not to vote on primary day. The New Hampshire attorney general’s office later traced the origin of the call to a Texas-based company and issued a cease-and-desist order, citing a voter suppression law.

The Federal Communications Commission last month banned AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls.

Clinton, Benson and other U.S. leaders Thursday said they wanted some sort of federal regulation over AI and elections.

Nearly two dozen tech companies—including Amazon, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI—signed an agreement last month pledging to prevent the creation and spread of AI-generated disinformation about elections. The companies didn’t commit to banning the content.

Tech executives at Thursday’s event said they were working hard to track and identify risks posed by bad actors who leverage generative AI.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said solutions must come from regulation or collaboration within the tech sector.

“This problem is going to get much worse over the next few years," he said.

Isabelle Bousquette and Belle Lin contributed to this article.

Write to Alyssa Lukpat at alyssa.lukpat@wsj.com

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