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Washington state braces for deepfakes ahead of 2024 elections

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Washington state's top elections official is urging voters to be vigilant against artificial intelligence and deepfakes as the presidential election, among others, intensifies in 2024.

"We have several high-interest elections this year, which creates a target-rich environment for these bad actors to subject voters to deepfakes and other misinformation,” Secretary of State Steve Hobbs said in a statement.

The warning comes shortly after robocalls mimicking President Biden's voice targeted New Hampshire voters ahead of that state's Tuesday primary. The fake voice told voters to skip the primary election, stating “your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday.”

New Hampshire's attorney general has received multiple complaints about the calls. In Washington, Hobbs is now bracing for potential frauds here as the state's March 12 primary approaches.

RELATED: New Hampshire is investigating a robocall that was made to sound like Biden

“The disturbing situation we’ve seen in New Hampshire’s campaign is just the tip of the iceberg for 2024. These false messages will get more polished and harder to tell from real ones. Voters must remain vigilant and skeptical, and turn to trusted information sources to verify things that just don’t seem right.”

The Secretary of State's Office confirmed there have been no suspected deepfakes reported in Washington so far in 2024.

Hobbs pushed for new elections laws around AI, deepfakes, and misinformation in 2023, which lawmakers ultimately approved. The state now prohibits the use of "synthetic media" in campaigns. The Secretary of State's Office says the new law is among the first of its kind nationwide. Campaigns are required to report if false or manipulated media is used (video, graphics, or audio).

“As artificial intelligence continues to evolve, we as state leaders have a responsibility to make sure our laws evolve as well to protect the public,” Hobbs said in his statement. “I will continue to work with the Legislature to keep Washington ahead of threats to the integrity of our elections.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, a handful of states have laws on the books that could address AI, deepfakes, and other digital election concerns, including: California, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Important dates in Washington state

  • Presidential primary: March 12
  • Primary for statewide offices: August 6
  • General election (president and statewide offices): November 5
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