NEW REPORT: Democracy Leaders Propose Policy Solutions to Dangers of AI, Deepfakes, and Disinformation

CITED details how California can lead the nation in combating digital threats in a major election year 

SACRAMENTO, Calif – Today, CITED, the California Initiative for Technology and Democracy, a project of California Common Cause, introduced a white paper outlining how California can find and implement policy solutions to protect our democracy from the threats posed by AI, deepfakes, and disinformation. The white paper, “Democracy On Edge in the Digital Age: Protecting Democracy in California in the Era of AI-Powered Disinformation and Unregulated Social Media,” is authored by Leora Gershenzon, CITED’s policy director, and Drew Liebert, CITED’s initiative director.

CITED’s work this legislative session begins with this white paper, which provides a statement of the problem and a landscape analysis of solutions, including ideas emerging from the European Union, the White House, Congress, and states around the country. It also discusses the limitations placed on possible solutions by the First Amendment, Section 230, and other policy and legal obstacles.

“State policymakers can and should quickly enact sensible safeguards this coming year around transparency, accountability, and oversight of social media companies and AI,” said Drew Liebert, CITED’s initiative director. “The template must be to protect our elections and democratic norms while minimizing impacts on our innovation economy, which is reflected in our policy recommendations.”

The United States is entering its first-ever AI election, in which disinformation powered by generative AI will poison our information ecosystems like never before and voters will not know what images, audio, or video they can trust. ‘Big Lie’ candidates, conspiracy theorists, foreign states, and online trolls will all have cheap, powerful tools at their disposal to undermine our democratic discourse.

Detailing how and why California must take swift action, CITED’s white paper urges all stakeholders – the State Legislature, civil society, academia, national experts, tech companies and social media platforms, and others – to come together to take the bold steps necessary to protect voters and to protect our already weakened democracy.

With cooperation between government, tech companies, academics, and many others, it is still possible that the promises of the social media and AI revolutions can be met while protecting the foundations of our democracy.

“A simple truth is coming at us like an avalanche: if left unaddressed, AI and disinformation pose an existential threat to the 2024 election and to our democracy itself,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, executive director of California Common Cause. “With the continuing void of needed federal action, California and its leaders have little choice but to pick up the reins and fill this leadership gap to protect our fragile democracy.” 

Launched in late 2023, CITED is the first-of-its-kind entity that brings together thought leaders in tech, law, public policy, civil rights, civic engagement, and academia to pioneer pragmatic, high-impact, state-level solutions to fight new digital threats to our elections and democracy. Independent of industry and with bipartisan leadership, CITED provides analysis and guidance divorced from private agendas and partisanship.

Read the full set of recommendations in the white paper, Democracy On Edge in the Digital Age: Protecting Democracy in California in the Era of AI-Powered Disinformation and Unregulated Social Media.

In case you missed our panel event on this topic, you can find the video link to the recording here.

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