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AI Emerges as Controversial Tool in 2024 Election 

WION News Report on Artificial Intelligence utilization during elections. Image courtesy of YouTube.com

The 2024 U.S. presidential election will be the first of the generative artificial intelligence (AI) era, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. In politics, technological advancements continue to determine and reshape the dynamics of elections. 

The Internet during the 1996 election and the dawn of social media in the early 2000s are examples of how technology has impacted past elections. Among these innovations, AI stands out as an altering force and changes the way campaigns communicate, plan and engage with voters. 

As the 2024 election cycle unfolds, the role and utilization of AI within political campaigns has become a pronounced topic. According to the National Artificial Intelligence Act of 2020, artificial intelligence means “a machine-based system that can, for a given set of human-defined objectives, make predictions, recommendations or decisions influencing real or virtual environments.”

During the New Hampshire Democratic primary voting period, residents received robocalls from an AI-generated imitation of Joe Biden advising them to skip the upcoming primary. According to the Washington Post, the New Hampshire Justice Department is investigating the calls, which represent one instance of AI used in a significant voter suppression effort.

Dr. JoVon McCalester, a professor of political science at Howard University, expressed that AI offers countless ways for society to become more efficient and solve some of the most pressing problems, such as agriculture, education and healthcare. McCalester highlighted the use of social media and internet-based technology. 

“We can all but predict what will happen in the presidential election this fall by examining the misuse of social media by the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election and again in 2020, but at a lesser rate,” McCalester said. 

A report from the UK’s Channel 4 News revealed that Donald Trump’s campaign directed negative advertisements about Hillary Clinton toward 3.5 million Black Americans in an attempt to dissuade them from voting in the 2016 presidential election. A video of Hillary Clinton’s past “super predator” comments was aired on Facebook as circling ads.

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“This, as well as President Obama’s successful use of technology during his first campaign and administration, rightfully led Trump supporters and sympathizers to imagine how its power could be harnessed for their cause,” McCalester continued.

Mia Williams, a junior political science major with a minor in business administration at Howard University, suggested that AI will become increasingly important and advanced.

“I believe AI will play a significant role in helping individuals target their market audience and decipher who and what people are searching for,” Williams, a native of Yonkers, New York, said. 

“I’m not too sure about how they are doing it with search engines right now. However, I feel that [AI] can be a helpful tool for people who are running campaigns,” Williams said.  

Global News report on Artificial Intelligence generating a fake robocall. Image courtesy of YouTube.com. 

Kevin Pérez-Allen, the chief communications officer for the nonpartisan healthcare advocate organization United States of Care, said “AI will help with data analysis of voting patterns such as crafting resident messages and analyzing social media habits,” as reported by CNBC. 

Perez-Allen also mentioned that ChatGPT, a free-to-use AI system, is currently being used to create the first draft of campaign speeches, fundraising emails as well as text and campaign marketing materials.

With AI’s ability to replace several human tasks, experts believe that having full campaign staff will not be a necessity for candidates seeking to save campaign funds. 

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Ayanna Best, a professor of political science at Howard University who teaches “Black Politics,” shared her skepticism about AI’s ability to adequately address the diverse preferences of voters when used as a messaging tool.

“Political parties will utilize AI to create and streamline messaging to voters,” Best said. “However, they should not completely rely on these machine learning processes, which do not have the political knowledge and understanding of how real voters make policy and candidate choices.”

“It is unclear how AI will be able to account for the preferences of diverse voters, including Black voters who think substantive representation is an important factor in who they will choose,” she continued.

McCalester echoed Best’s thoughts, yet shared her concern that advancements within AI can blur the lines between authentic and fabricated recordings.

“As AI use becomes more acceptable and commonplace in politics, we will see the opposition to groups like Black Lives Matter falsely claiming that videos of police brutality are fake and AI-generated,” McCalester said. “AI can develop to a point where the average person would be unable to discern whether a video or audio recording is real or AI-generated.”

Copy edited by Alana Matthew

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