With the emergence of AI, we must verify the authenticity of what we view in the digital realm more than we otherwise might. Videos and images can now be digitally altered from the original while remaining indistinguishable from the real thing. 

In fact, we saw this recently when a deepfake video was created to target Mark Walker, a former candidate in the 6th district. A video was digitally altered of Walker, making it seem as if things happened in the video that did not occur. Walker’s voice was replaced with “AI-generated audio clips,” as previously reported by the Carolina Journal. 

“With AI deepfakes, a candidate’s image can be smeared, or softened. Voters can be steered toward or away from candidates — or even to avoid the polls altogether. But perhaps the greatest threat to democracy, experts say, is that a surge of AI deepfakes could erode the public’s trust in what they see and hear,” according to a recent AP report.

A more recent development occurred this week in the form of photoshopped political ads in the District 13 runoff election between Kelly Daughtry and Brad Knott. The ads targeting Brad Knott’s campaign emerged on the internet last week.

In both altered photos, Knott is depicted as friendly with President Biden, but in the actual photos, he is pictured with law enforcement officials. 

“Kelly Daughtry’s entire campaign is built on abject fakery,” Jonathan Felts, Campaign Advisor to Knott, told the Carolina Journal. “Kelly Daughtry is an Obama-supporting RINO who now fraudulently portrays herself as a MAGA Republican so, while it’s sad, it’s not a surprise her team would resort to using diabolical, fake photos. Kelly Daughtry is desperate for folks to not look at her real record of supporting Obama/Biden in 2012 so her team is using fake photos in a flaccid attempt to distract voters from the truth of her Obama support.”

The Daughtry campaign responded as well. 

“The only fake thing in this race is Brad Knott pretending to be a conservative when he refused to vote for Donald Trump not once, but twice,” Stefan Mychajliw, spokesman for the Daughtry Campaign, told the Carolina Journal. “And if that wasn’t enough, he took a paycheck from Joe Biden’s DOJ while Donald Trump was indicted and prosecuted by his boss.  There’s one fake conservative in this race: Brad Knott.”

“Thanks to recent advances in generative AI, virtually anyone can create increasingly convincing but fake images, audio and videos, as well as fictional social-media users and bots that appear human. With a busy year for elections worldwide in 2024, voters are already running into AI-powered falsehoods that risk confusing them, according to researchers and U.S. officials,” according to WSJ. 

China is even using AI to target US voters and Taiwan with disinformation, through the use of social media and AI. The campaigns associated with China seek to identify “divisive domestic political issues and potentially influence elections,” according to a WSJ report “The tactics identified in a new cyber-threat report published Friday by Microsoft are among the first uncovered that directly tie the use of generative AI tools to a covert state-sponsored online influence operation against foreign voters. They also demonstrate more-advanced methods than previously seen.” 

The runoff election for District 13 between Knott and Daughtry is scheduled for May 14.