New Mexico takes stand against deep fakes


In the days leading up to the primary election in New Hampshire, several voters received phone calls from a voice that sounded like and claimed to be President Joe Biden encouraging them to stay home on election day. 

It was the first well-publicized use of artificial intelligence in a dirty tricks political campaign, but it undoubtedly will not be the last. 

The New Mexico Legislature took action this session to get in front of the problem. House Bill 182, which awaits the governor’s signature, amends the Campaign Reporting Act to require a disclaimer for any materially deceptive media created through AI, and makes it illegal to willfully distribute those messages without one. 

The penalty is a misdemeanor on the first conviction and a fourth-degree felony on the second conviction. It would apply equally to both traditional print and broadcast media and online sites, which still enjoy special protection from libel laws. 

The bill has an emergency clause, which means it will go into effect as soon as it is signed and will be in place for the upcoming election. 

New Mexico is joining California, Texas, Minnesota, Washington and Michigan in banning AI from political advertising. 

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouise Oliver said she knows of two other incidents before the New Hampshire primary where AI was used in an attempt to influence a political campaign with misinformation. She said she hopes raising awareness of AI will make New Mexico voters more skeptical when assessing all political ads. 

The Biden administration has issued an executive order regulating the use of AI within the federal government, but neither Congress nor the Federal Communications Commission have acted to regulate its use in political campaigns. 

Every advancement in communications technology provides new opportunities for political campaigns. The government was proactive in regulating messages on radio and television, but has thus far taken a more hands-off approach with this new technology.   

AI can be incredibly helpful in helping campaigns identify and target their most likely voters and craft specific messages tailored for their interests. But it also has the potential to take misinformation campaigns to a whole new level. 

It was challenging enough for voters to sort through the avalanche of claims, accusations and allegations made each election year when they were all human-generated. But at least with those we could trust our eyes and ears, if not the message. 

I wish that more could be done to fact-check political advertising, especially in hotly contested races like the one we will have later this year in the 2nd Congressional District. The amount of outside money spent on those races allows for more propaganda than any voter should be expected to sort through.  

The Attorney General’s Office notes that federal law already allows for disclosure requirements in political ads. That’s probably why the new law doesn’t simply ban the deep fakes.  

We can’t stop political campaigns from stretching the truth. But this bill will at least make sure that the falsehoods come from a real person. 

Walter Rubel can be reached at

Deep fakes, NM Legislature, House Bill 182