Merski bill would ban misuse of artificial intelligence in campaigns

HARRISBURG, June 11 – State Rep. Bob Merski and colleagues have introduced legislation that would prohibit the misuse of generative artificial intelligence in campaigns.

Merski, D-Erie, said he and several colleagues introduced H.B. 2353 to impose needed guardrails on the use of misleading digital content that jeopardizes the integrity of the electoral process.

“The freedom to go into the voting booth and choose candidates who reflect our values and beliefs is at the very heart of our democracy,” Merski said. “But the proliferation of AI-generated ‘deepfakes’ impersonating public officials and political candidates to spread disinformation threatens to undermine the whole point of free and fair elections.

“We have to act now to protect the sanctity of our elections by erecting sensible guardrails for how generative AI may be used in campaigns. Fourteen other states have already recognized the threat and passed legislation. It’s time for Pennsylvania to step up and do the same.”

Merski said the bill would establish the Fraudulent Misrepresentation of a Candidate Prevention Act, which would create civil liability and potential court penalties for disseminating an AI-generated impersonation of a candidate within 90 days before an election that is designed to misrepresent their words, actions or beliefs.

Addressing First Amendment concerns, Merski noted that constitutional free speech protections do not extend to fraud.

“While the First Amendment confers broad protections for political speech, they do not cover fraud, and especially not the kind of fraudulent misrepresentations that manipulate voters and undermine the sanctity of our elections. Moreover, our bill is narrowly tailored to address the deceptive use of AI during a specific campaign window – 90 days before an election.”

Merski introduced the bill together with Reps. Tarik Khan, D-Phila., Chris Pielli, D-Chester; G. Roni Green, D-Phila.; and Rob Mercuri, R-Allegheny.

The bill is currently in the House State Government Committee, and a companion bill – S.B. 1217 – was also introduced in the state Senate.