Spamming democracy

Article by Natalie Alms: “The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is considering AI’s effect in the regulatory process, including the potential for generative chatbots to fuel mass campaigns or inject spam comments into the federal agency rulemaking process.

A recent executive order directed the office to consider using guidance or tools to address mass comments, computer-generated comments and falsely attributed comments, something an administration official told FCW that OIRA is “moving forward” on.

Mark Febrezio, a senior policy analyst at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center, has experimented with Open AI’s generative AI system ChatGPT to create what he called a “convincing” public comment submission to a Labor Department proposal. 

“Generative AI also takes the possibility of mass and malattributed comments to the next level,” wrote Fabrizio and co-author Bridget Dooling, research professor at the center, in a paper published in April by the Brookings Institution.

The executive order comes years after astroturfing during the rollback of net neutrality policies by the Federal Communications Commission in 2017 garnered public attention. That rulemaking docket received a record-breaking 22 million-plus comments, but over 8.5 million came from a campaign against net neutrality led by broadband companies, according to an investigation by the New York Attorney General released in 2021. 

The investigation found that lead generators paid by these companies submitted many comments with real names and addresses attached without the knowledge or consent of those individuals.  In the same docket were over 7 million comments supporting net neutrality submitted by a computer science student, who used software to submit comments attached to computer-generated names and addresses.

While the numbers are staggering, experts told FCW that agencies aren’t just counting comments when reading through submissions from the public…(More)”