Senate's Schumer says Congress may need to prioritize AI election safeguards

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Schumer hosts tech leaders and experts at AI forum at the U.S. Capitol in Washington

By Richard Cowan and David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A day after tech CEOs met with lawmakers about how to regulate artificial intelligence, two key senators said Congress may first need to tackle the potential impact of AI on elections.

Lawmakers are especially concerned about the use of AI to creates content that falsely depicts candidates in political advertisements to influence federal elections.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters a day after the AI forum that included technology leaders including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai that election AI legislation may need to move faster.

"Some things may have to go sooner than others and elections is one of the things that we may have to try to do soonest," Schumer said on Thursday.

The appearance in the campaign of digitally alerted photos in June of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump showed how the technology is turbocharging its way into the 2024 presidential race as a slew of new "generative AI" tools make it cheap and easy to create convincing deepfakes.

Republican Senator Mike Rounds said "one of the priorities that I would like to see as one of the first steps out there because the election is coming up on us quickly."

Experts say the proliferation of AI tools could make it far easier to, for instance, conduct mass hacking campaigns or create fake profiles on social media to spread false information and propaganda.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of four senators including Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Josh Hawley proposed legislation to prohibit "distribution of materially deceptive AI-generated audio, images, or video relating to federal candidates in political ads or certain issue ads."

Rounds added: "There are going to be bad people out there and other countries that will make life miserable because they don't want democracy to succeed." He said it will be "a real challenge" to get agreement on such legislation "on both sides."

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Rick Cowan in Washington; Editing by Licoln Feast.)