Good government groups are pushing the state to do more when it comes to political “deepfakes” generated by artificial intelligence. They say it’s especially important as we head into an election season that will see offices across the state and national levels on the ballot.

It’s an issue that also has lawmakers on both sides of the aisle concerned.

Susan Lerner is executive director of Common Cause New York, one of multiple good government groups who have signed on to a letter urging Gov. Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders to prioritize protecting New York voters for AI deepfakes in the budget.

She stressed that the ongoing distribution of content to voters portraying events that did not actually take place threaten a free and fair election.

“This particular issue is urgent,” she said. “Voters need to have confidence that what they are seeing in a campaign is something they can rely on, and if they feel they are only being bombarded by misinformation and deep fakes, it undercuts the integrity of all of our elections."

In her 30-day amendments to the executive budget, Hochul included legislation to update state law to account for unauthorized uses of artificial intelligence, as well as a requirement for creators to disclose the use of AI in political materials within 60 days of an election. The state Senate one-house budget also tackles the issue.

Asked Tuesday where that proposal stands when it comes to budget negotiations, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had this to say.

“As the leader, I’ve really been concentrating on the big big issues, the staff are still having conversations on those other issues,” he said. 

Republican Assemblymember Chris Tague told Spectrum News 1 he doesn’t feel the budget is necessarily the place for such legislation, but considers the issue of AI misinformation to be a serious problem the Legislature should tackle, emphasizing that Republican Assemblymemeber Mike Norris has already introduced his own legislation to address the issue.

Tague said when it comes to this year’s election, he worries about older voters.

“For somebody like me that’s probably not as good with technology as the younger kids, to be able to tell if something is real or not I think is a big issue," he said.

Lerner emphasized the time is now for state officials to step in because she feels a lack of uniformity and regulation across various social media platforms and content creation programs make that regulation necessary.

“This is really an appropriate area for government regulation to ensure the information that’s provided to people in campaigns and many other areas is well is properly regulated and people should be able to have faith,” she said.

Asked whether he thinks this is something that will be taken up later in the session should it not make the budget, Heastie declined to directly speculate.