Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke at the Senate Rules Committee hearing on AI and the Future of our Elections. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
AI, artificial intelligence, is already reshaping life on Earth in dramatic ways: it is transforming how we fight diseases, tackle hunger, manage our lives, enrich our minds, ensure peace, and very much more.
But we cannot ignore AI’s dangers: workforce disruptions, misinformation, bias, new weapons.
And today, I am pleased to talk to you about a more immediate problem: how AI could be used to jaundice – even totally discredit – our elections, as early as next year.
Make no mistake, the risks of AI on our elections is not just an issue for Democrats, nor just Republicans. Every one of us will be impacted. No voter will be spared. No election will be unaffected. It will spread to all corners of democracy and thus it demands a response from all of us.
That is why I firmly believe that any effort by Congress to address AI must be bipartisan, and I can think of few issues that should unite both parties faster than safeguarding our democracy.
We don’t need to look very hard to see how AI can warp our democratic systems: this year we’ve already seen instances of AI-generated deep fakes and misinformation reach the voters.
Political ads have been released this year, right now, using AI-generated images and text-to-voice converters to depict certain candidates in a negative light.
Uncensored ChatBots can already be deployed at a massive scale to target millions of individual voters for political persuasion.
And once damaging misinformation is sent to a hundred million homes, it is hard – oftentimes impossible – to put that genie back in the bottle. Everyone has experienced these rampant rumors that, once they get out there, no matter how many times you refute them, still stick around.
If we don’t act, we could soon live in a world where political campaigns regularly deploy totally fabricated – but also totally believable – images and footage of Democratic or Republican candidates, distorting their statements and greatly harming their election chances.
And what then is to stop foreign adversaries from taking advantage of this technology to interfere with our elections?
This is the problem we now face: if left unchecked, AI’s use in our elections could erode our democracy from within, and from abroad. And the damage, unfortunately, could be irreversible.
As Americans prepare to go to the polls in 2024, we have to move quickly to establish safeguards to protect voters from AI-related misinformation.
And it won’t be easy. For Congress to legislate on AI is for us to engage in perhaps the most complex subject this body has ever faced.
I’m proud of the Rules Committee for their leadership on this issue. And thank you Chairwoman Klobuchar for your continuing work on important legislative efforts to protect our elections from the potential harms of AI.
And thank you, again, for organizing this hearing: holding this hearing on AI and our elections is essential for drawing attention to the need for action, and I commend you and Ranking Member Fischer for doing just that.
In the meantime, I will continue working with Senators Rounds, Heinrich, and Young to host AI Insight Forums that focus on issues like AI and democracy, to supplement the work of the Rules Committee and our other committees.
And I look forward to working with both Senators Klobuchar and Fischer – and all the Rules Committee members – thank you for being here, to Senators Welch and Merkley and Britt, to develop bipartisan legislation that maximizes AI’s benefits and minimizes the risks.
Finally, the responsibility for protecting our elections won’t be Congress’s alone. The Administration should continue leveraging the tools we have already provided them. And private companies must do their part, to issue their own safeguards for how AI systems are used in the political arena.
It will take all of us – the Administration, the private sector, Congress – working together to protect our democracy, ensure robust transparency and safeguards, and ultimately keep the vision of our founders alive in the twenty-first century.
So, thank you again to the members of this committee, thank you to Chairwoman Klobuchar and Ranking Member Fischer for convening the hearing. I look forward to working with all of you on comprehensive AI legislation and learning from your ongoing work.