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AI Blackout Proposed for Elections: Should We Go Further?

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Fake news is nothing new. In fact, it’s a term that’s become so widespread, it even has its own entry in the Cambridge English dictionary. Election cycles in particular are notorious hotbeds for online misinformation. Sadly, that’s not likely to improve with the advent of artificial intelligence. 

It’s natural to feel worried about the impact of AI on politics and wider social issues. From Taiwan to the US, concerns about upcoming elections are mounting fast. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that almost two-thirds of the British public feel that an “AI blackout” should be imposed during election time. 

In this post, we’ll explain why AI is such a problem for voters, the benefits of the proposed AI blackout – and whether we should blackout other forms of AI-generated media too.

How could generative AI impact elections? 

So, why does AI pose such a problem for elections? First, we need to consider generative AI’s role in the wider newscycle. Generative AI can be used to “generate” new material from previously-created content. That includes text, video, audio, images and more. Naturally, there are a variety of issues that come with this new method of content generation…

AI content is generated by an algorithm

That means it’s obviously not been written by a person with actual expertise or a unique perspective. According to research from Newsworks, 72% of British people prefer content written by a human over an AI. AI cannot generate a new, original take on political elections – it can only regurgitate the opinions shared by other creators. Ultimately, it’s missing that genuine, authentic voice that human-written content captures.

It relies on accurate source material

Another issue is that AI generated content is only as good as the material it draws from. If one of its sources is brimming with misinformation, that “fake news” is replicated in the artificially generated material.

AI content can be deliberately misleading 

This all leaves room for misinformation to be spread deliberately through AI content. AI can be used to generate video and audio content that clones the voice and likeness of real life people. This has already been utilised in US elections. One promotional ad created by a super PAC in support of Governor Ron DeSantis used AI to make it appear that Donald Trump was reading out his own social media posts. However, this Trump “sound-alike” was completely fake.

In one video shared across social media, Hilary Clinton is seen endorsing Ron DeSantis, despite their affiliation with different parties. This video was also a deep fake created with AI. 

Currently, it’s not mandatory for political advertisements that use AI content to include a disclaimer. In essence, it’s legal to keep voters in the dark, as there are no clear regulations in place. The potential consequences of this are highly disturbing. Fringe voters could be swayed by seeing a video of a favourite politician or celebrity advocating for a candidate – only for that video to be 100% fake.

Why has an AI blackout been proposed for elections? 

It’s clear that generative AI could have a huge impact on political misinformation. So, how can the public regain its trust in news media during election time? One solution that seems to be popular with the UK public is an “AI blackout”. Enforcing a full blackout of AI content during elections would ensure that any online political material has been created by real people. Sounds perfect, right?

Well…almost. An AI blackout doesn’t guarantee an end to “fake news” in politics, per say. The spread of online misinformation via social media started long before AI entered the scene. However, proper regulation and a full AI blackout would no doubt be an important step to protect the integrity of election news media.

“Your Money or Your Life”: Should we go further with AI blackouts? 

Politics isn’t the only subject that can be compromised by online misinformation. Without proper regulations, generative AI could produce a slew of inaccurate content on a variety of sensitive subjects. 

Many of these topics come under the banner of “YMYL”, which stands for “Your Money or Your Life”.

Introduced by Google in the first version of its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines (SQEG), YMYL refers to topics that could potentially have a huge impact on the reader’s life. That could be in terms of mental and physical health, safety, finances or overall wellbeing. Put simply, YMYL content has the potential to cause harm to the reader, the people around them, or even broader groups who may be affected by the reader’s decisions and actions. This could be due to anything from inaccurate information about a medication to materials promoting discrimination and violence. 

Just as political campaigns have utilised generative AI to influence voters, YMYL content could face similar risks. AI could be used to generate vast amounts of anti-vaccine content or propaganda for extremist groups, for example. It doesn’t even have to be deliberate. Without an expert writer to create trusted content, misinformation could easily slip into medical articles – and then be reproduced through other AI articles across the web. That’s clearly a recipe for disaster. 

So, this raises the question of whether YMYL topics should be covered by AI blackouts, as well. Considering the potential impact on human life, this precaution would arguably be a wise choice. Aside from the moral and social implications, Google is also more critical of YMYL content. Naturally, AI generated articles on these topics are more likely to be pushed down in Google rankings. Many businesses will now need to think carefully about how an AI blackout could impact their blog content. That includes everyone from financial advisors to fitness instructors.

Want AI blackout-proof content that search engines will love?

From ChatGPT to Google Bard, it’s clear that generative AI is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean sensitive topics should be an AI free-for-all. 

If your business is likely to be affected by an AI blackout, you need to show readers (and Google!) that your content is reliable and trustworthy – not to mention, written by a human being! 

Fortunately, Wrise is here to help!

At Wrise, we’re experts at creating authoritative content that readers and search engines love. If you’re looking for engaging content that ticks all the boxes, why not browse our content writing and blog writing services? Or, if you’re ready to provide accurate, meaningful articles to your readers, get in touch to find out how we can take your content to the next level.