Common Cause, Brennan Center, NAACP & Good Gvt Groups Urge Albany Leadership to Prioritize Leg AI "Deep Fakes"

Amid heightened election season, lawmakers must protect voters from deceptive campaign materials already sowing discord nationwide

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NEW YORK, NY (04/01/2024) (readMedia)-- Today, Common Cause New York, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Brooklyn NAACP and other good governance and voting rights organizations sent a letter to Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Assembly Speaker Heastie urging them to include legislation to protect against AI-generated political "deep fakes" in the FY2025 state budget. Deep fakes are digitally altered video, audio, or images intended to mislead voters. Deep fake political content is already impacting national and local politics, and could cause immense harm to New York's electoral system if lawmakers do not enact new guardrails this election cycle.

Read the letter attached and pasted below.

"The rise of AI-generated political content threatens to sow confusion and distrust-in our institutions, our candidates, and each other. Deep fakes have already misled voters and media here in New York, but they will only become more frequent and difficult to debunk as we enter a contentious political cycle. Lawmakers have an obligation to protect voters from bad-faith efforts specifically intended to mislead them, which is why they must work swiftly to pass new legislation in the budget that regulates the use of AI-generated political content and prioritizes transparency for voters," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York.

Common Cause/NY has previously called on lawmakers to protect against deep fakes and other deceptive campaign materials. A bill introduced by Sen. Kristen Gonzalez called the New York FAIR Act (S-8631) would advance that goal by requiring clear, enforceable disclosures on campaign materials with altered images, video or audio to warn voters of potentially deceptive material. The legislation would also allow legal recourse for candidates depicted in a manipulated manner.


RE: Groups urge transparency for AI-generated and other political deepfakes in FY 2025


Dear Governor Hochul, Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Heastie,

The undersigned organizations urge you to include legislation requiring transparency for AIgenerated political deepfakes and other deceptive synthetic media targeting New York voters in the FY 2025 budget. We are grateful for your steadfast leadership in fighting for free and fair elections in our state, including by introducing an executive budget and one-house proposals this year that promise needed resources for voting reforms, public campaign financing, and election administration needs. Protecting New York elections this year also requires that you enact new safeguards to ensure that voters have the information they need to recognize when they are being targeted by inauthentic political communications, such as communications used for campaign purposes.

Disinformation using generative AI technology has become a significant threat to our elections. Recent advances have made it easier to create and disseminate deepfake content that can easily mislead voters with videos, audio clips, and images showing events or statements that did not actually occur. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish this sort of deceptive content from depictions of real events.

The proliferation of this technology threatens to turbocharge the rapid spread of disinformation in an already volatile national political environment, misleading voters and even suppressing their votes. We are witnessing these dangers in real time in the 2024 presidential elections, from depictions of candidates in scenarios that did not occur to an AI-generated robocall of President Biden telling New Hampshire voters not to vote in the primary. New York is far from immune, as we saw recently when AI-generated audio of a New York City political leader disparaging a state assemblymember made headlines.

We applaud Governor Hochul's move to include legislation to counter these threats in her 30- day amendments*, and the introduction of similar legislation in the Senate, which passed through the Elections Committee earlier this month. We urge the Assembly to also prioritize this urgent issue by supporting the inclusion of legislation in the final budget.

Time is of the essence. We recognize that it is not feasible to address every aspect of the challenge posed by the latest advances in deceptive AI technology in time for the 2024 election, but that is no excuse for inaction. The transparency measures proposed by Governor Hochul and in the Senate bill represent a reasonable first step. We urge you not to prolong your response by waiting to pass legislation during the regular session. Delivering legislation in the budget will help ensure that New York gets out ahead of a significant emerging threat, while providing a model for other states to follow.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and for your continued work to strengthen New York's democracy.


Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

Brooklyn NAACP

Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College

Citizen Action of New York

Common Cause New York

League of Women Voters of New York State

New York Immigration Coalition

Public Citizen

Women Creating Change

*FY 2025 Executive Budget, Transportation, Economic Development and Environmental Conservation (TED) Bill, New Part MM, Subpart C (2024).