Niki Kelly: AI could impact election; up to Hoosiers to not be fooled by misinformation

Every day should be April Fool’s Day when preparing for an election. I don’t mean the pranks and jokes, but the skepticism in assessing news and social media posts.

On April 1, everyone is wary and asking questions about online discourse. And I think that’s the best posture to have as we hit overdrive in campaign season — the first with widespread availability of generative artificial intelligence.

AI-generated audio recordings, ads, manipulated photos and more are coming. So-called deepfakes can be used to portray a candidate saying or doing things that never happened.

For example, in February, just before the New Hampshire primary, thousands of voters in the state received a robocall with an AI-generated voice impersonating President Joe Biden, urging them not to vote. A Democratic operative working for a rival candidate has admitted to commissioning the calls.

States are already preparing for it and so should voters.

Stateline recently reported that since the start of last year, 101 bills addressing AI and election disinformation have been introduced, according to a March 26 analysis by the Voting Rights Lab.

On March 27, Oregon became the latest state — after Wisconsin, New Mexico, Indiana and Utah — to enact a law on AI-generated election disinformation. Florida and Idaho lawmakers have passed their own measures, which are currently on the desks of those states’ governors.

Indiana’s effort focuses on transparency, requiring that candidates include a disclaimer when political advertising includes use of generative AI, and it creates a path for legal action when candidates believe they are misrepresented.

But there are always going to be bad actors who don’t follow laws. That’s where you come in.

Before you share something, check if you know the outlet, such as a newspaper or radio station. Is it reputable? If you have never heard of it, do some digging to see if it’s legitimate or consider scrolling on by.

Similarly, who is the poster? An established, trusted reporter? A well-known academic? A campaign strategist? If not, you need to take extra steps to vet the accuracy of that post.

Learn how to do a reverse image search online. It’s relatively simple and can identify when an original photo is being used inappropriately. We have seen old war footage used to hype up either side of a current conflict. We have seen photos manipulated to replace someone’s face.

And it’s not just artificial intelligence that is a concern.

As always, campaign ads do their best to spin something their way. If a candidate is maligning another, try to find original source material and read it for yourself or watch interviews to make sure they haven’t been edited to be misleading. The ads usually cite the articles or interviews that make it easy for you to find. And if they don’t, then that is a concern right there.

We are all part of stopping misinformation and we must do our part.

So as the race for the Republican Party’s governor nomination is in its final heated month and congressional contests get fiery, be skeptical. Act like it’s April Fool’s Day.

Niki Kelly is editor-in-chief of, where this commentary previously appeared. She has covered Indiana politics and the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 for publications including the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Send comments to [email protected].