OPINION: We Must Do More to Prepare for Artificial Intelligence Advances

2024 may go down as the year Artificial Intelligence (AI) took the world by storm. The news is exciting, but also a little unsettling. In 5 to 7 years, we read that AI will be as smart as humans. In twenty years, some say, AI will be able to do anything we can do. These claims are tricky to evaluate, but what’s clear is that AI is advancing faster than most people realize. The more we interact with AI, the quicker it evolves, learns, and develops. In the past decade, AI has moved from beating humans at Jeopardy to writing songs and tackling advanced coding. The uncanny realism of deepfake videos featuring celebrities like Tom Cruise reminds us that stealing someone’s face isn’t just a plot for Mission: Impossible anymore.

As Chairs of the Pennsylvania Senate’s Communications and Technology Committee, we are committed to fostering innovation while protecting Pennsylvanians from disinformation and digital threats, including sexual exploitation. This spring, our legislative agenda includes several bills that carefully address the challenges posed by AI. Our goal is to allow government and the private sector to harness this technology’s full potential in a way that aligns with public good.

The cornerstone of American Democracy is a citizen’s ability to make their voice heard on Election Day.  As AI technology becomes more accessible, there is a growing risk that bad actors will exploit it to create deceptively realistic content that could disrupt the political process. Already this year, a robocall with a deep-faked voice of President Biden falsely told Democratic voters in the New Hampshire presidential primary not to vote. We all need accurate information to make the best and most informed decisions for our families and communities. A vote cast because of fraudulent information is a vote stolen. To safeguard our constituents and the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections, we’ve introduced legislation to prohibit the use of AI to fraudulently misrepresent political candidates.

As parents, we were shaken by events that came to light last autumn in Westfield, NJ. The social media app Snapchat was used to circulate AI-generated nude photos of high school students as young as fourteen.  The Westfield case and others like it helped inspire our bill tackling sexual exploitation through the nonconsensual creation of pornographic deepfake images.

In Pennsylvania, sharing intimate images of a person without consent is illegal. However, the law doesn’t clearly address the use of deepfake technology to spread similar, AI-generated images without the subject’s consent. Our legislation, a companion to State Rep. Ryan MacKenzie’s House Bill 1063, will make it clear that the use of these tools to create pornographic images without consent is illegal.

Finally, we’re developing legislation that would require a clear disclosure on all AI-generated material.  With this information, readers and viewers can make informed decisions and protect themselves from misleading content. We clearly identify ourselves at the end of this op-ed. That’s because we believe Pennsylvanians have the right to know who (or what) creates the media they consume.

Some 14 states have adopted resolutions or enacted laws related to AI technology. Pennsylvania must be ready to join them with a thoughtful, commonsense legal framework if we want to manage the growing influence and potential risks of AI in our elections, workplaces, and daily lives.

Pennsylvania Senator Tracy Pennycuick represents the 24th District, which includes parts of Berks and Montgomery counties. She serves as Republican Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Communications and Technology Committee

Pennsylvania Senator Jimmy Dillon represents the 5th District, which includes parts of Northeast Philadelphia. He serves as Democratic Chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Communications and Technology Committee

Back to Top