'2024 Elections Will Be A Mess' Because Of AI, Says Former Google CEO — Misleading And Fake Info Top Concern Among State Election Officials

Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google and co-founder of Schmidt Futures, has raised concerns about the potential for rampant misinformation surrounding the 2024 election because of the increased accessibility of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

In a recent interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box," Schmidt emphasized that social media platforms are not adequately protecting users from false AI-generated content, making the upcoming elections vulnerable to misinformation. 

"The 2024 elections are going to be a mess because social media is not protecting us from false generated AI," Schmidt said.

Despite the broader societal concerns surrounding AI and its potential to mimic human abilities, Schmidt warned that the immediate danger lies in the spread of misinformation. He pointed out that while efforts are being made by social media companies to address the issue, they have not yet found a definitive solution. Schmidt expressed his worry that the trust and safety groups responsible for ensuring platform integrity are being downsized rather than expanded.

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Google recently made a policy change regarding the removal of false claims related to widespread fraud in the 2020 U.S. election from YouTube. The company cited the need to strike a balance between community protection and fostering open discussions on its platform. When questioned about this decision, Schmidt argued that social media should prioritize "free speech for humans, not computers."

He proposed a strategy where all content is marked, user identities are verified and people are held accountable for any violations of the law. While this approach may not entirely resolve the issue of differing opinions on factual matters, Schmidt said he believes it establishes a basis by confirming that human users are behind the claims made on the platform. This could mitigate the impact of AI-generated misinformation in the short term.

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During a Senate panel in May, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman expressed his concerns about the use of artificial intelligence to interfere with election integrity. He emphasized the need for regulation in this area to address potential risks.

"I am nervous about it," Altman said, referring to the intersection of elections and AI. He stressed the importance of establishing rules and guidelines to mitigate potential negative impacts.

The race to bring increasingly versatile AI to the market has been ongoing, with companies of all sizes investing substantial resources in the pursuit. But critics are apprehensive about the potential societal harms that AI could exacerbate, such as prejudice and misinformation. Some even raise alarm about the existential risk AI might pose to humanity.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker acknowledged the severity of the situation, stating, "There's no way to put this genie in the bottle. Globally, this is exploding."

Booker echoed concerns shared by many lawmakers grappling with the challenge of determining the most effective means of regulating AI to ensure responsible and safe deployment.

During the annual summer conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington, D.C., officials gathered to discuss pressing concerns surrounding the upcoming 2024 elections.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon emphasized the importance of preparing for potential challenges, stating, "You hope for the best but plan for the worst. So, we're planning for the worst, which is that multiple communications channels will be filled with false and misleading information."

State election officials from Michigan and Colorado expressed particular apprehension regarding the increasing use of AI and its potential for misuse by foreign adversaries aiming to interfere in U.S. elections. They raised concerns about the emergence of altered videos, known as deep fakes, that use facial mapping and AI technology to convincingly portray people saying things they never said. The rise of such deceptive content has put them on high alert and is causing them to remain vigilant in safeguarding election integrity.

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