CHICAGO (WLS) — In January, two days before voters went to the polls in the New Hampshire primary, a robocall went out urging people to “save” their vote for November.

It reportedly sounded like President Joe Biden and used the phrase “what a bunch of malarkey,” something he’s known to say. Prosecutors say the call was a bunch of malarkey, and that it used an AI-generated voice.

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The political consultant who was allegedly behind it is charged with voter suppression and impersonating a candidate.

Erik Nisbet is a professor of Policy Analysis and Communication with the School of Communication at Northwestern University.

“This will be the first major campaign cycle with the use of AI. And I think it will be a testing ground for how AI will be used by campaigns, by candidates, as well as malign actors whether they be China, Russia or domestic actors who want to interfere with the election. And so, I think whatever lessons they take will be actually be very impactful for future elections,” Nisbet said.

In a country with sharp divisions, Nisbet thinks AI will only make the division worse.

In a country with sharp divisions, Professor Erik Nisbet thinks AI will only make the division worse.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the impact that digital media has on polarization in our politics. We haven’t really figured out how to deal with that. AI’s going to turbocharge these problems when it comes to misinformation, bad actors using it to create political divides. Also, it will be interesting how the campaigns use it,” Nisbet said.

Nisbet says we’re most likely going to see AI used in battleground states. But how can bad actors be held accountable?

“There are no currently federal regulations on the use of AI in campaigns,” Nisbet aid. “State by state there are different regulations being passed. Some states have enacted, some states have them pending. In Illinois, there are two bills that are pending in both the House and the Senate around the use of AI in elections, the use of fake voices or imagery those are pending. But it’s going to create sort of a hodgepodge nationally of laws around AI in elections.”

He says right now, it’s sort of the “Wild West” when it comes to elections and AI.

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