McConnell Opening Remarks At Rules Committee Markup On A.I. In Political Speech

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) submitted the following remarks for the record at today’s Senate Rules Committee markup:

“Today, the committee is considering actions with the potential to profoundly change the landscape of political speech.

“On the frontier of artificial intelligence, the emergence computer-generated ‘deepfakes’ video and audio has prompted some valid concerns.

“But especially in cases of sincere concern, the way Congress engages with new technology matters. And the legislation in front of us today comes from a familiar playbook where the first response is to limit political speech.

“Each of us here has had our fair share of experience running campaigns. Most of us, at some point, have had an ad taken down by a broadcaster, or challenged the veracity of an opponent’s ad to have it taken down. 

“This activity falls squarely within an existing, well-developed legal regime – a regime that is also easily applied to deepfakes.

“But today, we’re considering bills that would tamper with this framework and create new definitions that could reach well beyond deepfakes.

“Our colleague, Senator Hagerty, drove this point home at our hearing on AI in political speech. As he explained, the definitions in these bills are nebulous, at best, and overly censorious if they’re applied most cynically. They could wind up barring all manner of photos and videos as long as the ill-defined ‘reasonable person’ could deduce an alternative meaning from the content.

“Needless to say, if we put up a dozen political ads before this Committee, our colleagues would differ on which ones were intentionally misleading.

“The core question we’re facing is whether or not politicians should have another tool to take down speech they don’t like. But if the amendment before us extends this authority to unpaid political speech, then we’re also talking about an extension of speech regulation that has not happened in the 50 years of our modern campaign finance regime.

“Now, I also have concerns about the disclaimer provisions and their application. Our political disclaimer regime has for its entire history served a singular purpose: to help voters understand who is paying for or endorsing an advertisement. It has never been applied to political advertisements as a content regulation tool.

“And on this bill, the problem again lies in exceptions to the definitions.

“Let’s remember: As of today, Congress has not even settled on a definition for AI, let alone a definition of ‘deepfake’. The experts who testified before this committee had a difficult time defining it. And so did the Democratic Leader’s series of summits on the topic.

“If this committee intends to impose new regulations on speech, we ought to be able to define specifically what we’re aiming for. We can’t rely on broad definitions that could apply to so many modern media.

“Until Congress reaches a consensus understanding of what AI is acceptable and what is not, leading with our chin is not going to cut it in the domain of political speech.

“So I will oppose S. 2770 or S. 3875 at this time. And I would urge my colleagues to do the same.”


Related Issues: Senate Rules, First Amendment