Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

How NM will enforce the new deepfake disclosure law • Source New Mexico

About one week after early voting in New Mexico’s primary elections begins, a new law will go into effect requiring political campaigns and candidates to tell the public whenever they use false information generated by artificial intelligence in a campaign ad.

The New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office and the state Ethics Commission will investigate alleged violations of a new election law called House Bill 182.

The Ethics Commission is the state agency mainly responsible for enforcing the Campaign Reporting Act, according to the governor’s message signing the bill. The Ethics Commission has “more capacity for investigation” than the Secretary of State’s Office, said spokesperson Alex Curtas.

“We operate under the idea of trying to seek voluntary compliance from people,” Curtas said. “We don’t really have investigators, so we try to get people to come into compliance.”

How to submit a complaint to the Ethics Commission

Complaints can be handed in to the Ethics Commission in two ways, said spokesperson Jane Kirkpatrick: either as “administrative” complaints or informal ones.

The Commission investigates and resolves administrative complaints alleging violations of ethics laws through its administrative proceedings portal, Kirkpatrick said. Once someone submits a complaint, it goes to the executive director, she said.

The administrative process does not allow complainants to be anonymous, Kirkpatrick said, while informal complaints or “tips” do. Those can be submitted here.

These tips are the main way to submit complaints against local officials but the law is more limited when it comes to local elections, Kirkpatrick said.

When the Commission gets a tip, it will start an internal overview and investigation, and then the executive director decides whether to sue someone in state district court, Kirkpatrick said. That decision must be approved by a quorum of the commissioners, at least two Republicans and two Democrats, Kirkpatrick said.

While the Secretary of State’s Office will take complaints related to the new disclosure requirements in the law, often they will refer them to the Ethics Commission, Curtas said, because they fall under an agreement between the two agencies.

Since the bill doesn’t specify an effective date, spend money, or contain an emergency clause, it will go into effect on May 15, 90 days after the end of the 2024 legislative session. 

Before then, the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Office will launch a statewide public education campaign about AI’s influence, Curtas said.

The bill focuses on the content of political advertisements, while the education campaign will try to supplement that by informing the public about the potential for AI misuse in elections, Curtas said.

The public messaging will focus on rural communities and include radio, television, billboards and digital ads, Curtas said.

The agency hired Albuquerque-based Esparza Advertising, Curtas said. They met in the second week of March and were finalizing their strategy and content, he said.

Governor asks for AG opinion

Curtas said the legislation could curb the potential misuse of AI in elections.

“I think it’s a really good step in the right direction, that you see a lot of other states taking,” Curtas said. “So we’re fairly out in front here on this issue in New Mexico.”

New Mexico is among eight states that have enacted similar legislation since October 2019, according to a bill tracker run by Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group that supported the bill. On Tuesday, 31 more states were considering related bills.

When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill on March 5, she wrote, “With the rise in artificial intelligence, it is vital that we address and prevent its use to deceive voters and disrupt democracy — especially before the upcoming elections later this year.”

However, she also said after lawmakers passed the bill, the Ethics Commission “expressed concerns to my Office about this legislation’s enforceability” because the Legislative Finance Committee “failed to request the Commission’s input during the session.”

“I, too, am concerned that portions of this legislation are ambiguous and may pose legal issues,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “To that end, I will be requesting an official opinion from the Attorney General to address these issues.”

New Mexico Department of Justice spokesperson Lauren Rodriguez said Tuesday they had received Lujan Grisham’s opinion request. The agency assigned it to an attorney and will publish it on their website once it has been completed, she said.

“It is my hope that this opinion will clarify any ambiguities and provide guidance to those who will enforce, or be subject to, this legislation,” Lujan Grisham wrote.

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