Bill regulating artificial intelligence in political ads could get governor's signature 'very soon'

'It's amazing just how real some of this is,' state Rep. Alex Rizo says
Posted at 7:02 PM, Apr 25, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Even Florida's governor is guilty of using fake, artificial intelligence-made, images in political ads. But soon he may sign a bill creating guardrails for it. That comes as some say the legislation lacks the teeth needed to truly take a bite out of the problem.

Maybe you have gotten a fake robocall from a president who wasn't actually on the line or you saw ads featuring words never actually said.

Artificial intelligence is now a part of the political process.

Campaigns, left and right, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have made ads with fake audio, video or images like these of the former president and Dr. Anthony Fauci embracing.

"It's amazing just how real some of this is," state Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, said.

Rizo has a bill pushing back on what he considers a misleading, even nefarious trend. HB 919 requires political ads with AI-made images, video, or audio showing something that didn't happen— have a disclaimer noting as much. The acknowledgment has to be a certain size and length, plus there are penalties for violators. Civil fines, even a first-degree misdemeanor charge.

The bill is sitting on DeSantis' desk and he has until next Wednesday to act on it, which, Rizo expected he would.

"The governor is doing a great job of vetting everything and making sure that we that we, again, get to the right place," Rizo said. "I feel confident that it will be signed into legislation very soon, in fact, and then hopefully, starting next, well, this election cycle, we'll see some of that."

There are concerns with the legislation, despite its wide bipartisan support.

Several members of the state House feel the policy lacks a clear path to enforcement.

Alleged violations would first get filed with the Florida Elections Commission and need to target those who paid for the ad. The commission would then hold hearings to determine the next steps which can get confusing and take a while to accomplish.

"It's going to be a logistical nightmare, maybe," Rep. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, said during a debate on the legislation before it was approved in February. "A mess, possibly. Confusion, I think so."

Even so, most of the Legislature saw the change as, at least, a first step in the right direction on AI fakes. It's now up to Gov. Ron DeSantis to decide whether to take it.

Scripps Florida Capitol reporter Forrest Saunders contacted the governor's communication team Thursday to see if they had any updates on DeSantis' consideration of the bill. They said they didn't have "specifics to offer at the moment."

If DeSantis does sign it, the legislation takes effect in July of this year.