5 Reasons why National (or any political party) shouldn’t be using AI images

AI is a hot story right now, but it's an uncomfortable one. This week the National Party chose to put themselves in this story through its use of AI generated images in its social media campaign. Here’s 5 reasons why I think its a bad idea for them, or any political party, to use AI images:

  1. We have a crisis in our democracy right now, a lack of trust in our democratic institutions and in democratically elected politicians in particular. Political parties should not be posting made up sh*t. This lack of trust manifests in many ways (think parliament occupation) but the “you can’t believe anything a politician says” narrative is more pervasive than it has ever been and now includes “you can’t believe any image a politician posts”.

  2. The frame that all AI stories sit in right now is one of concern, causing unease and anxiety amongst many - some of this is justified, some of it not. But in politics the stories are causing particular distress, fuelled from the US by the likes of the Republican’s AI generated Biden attack ad depicting a dystopian future, to the AI generated Pentagon image that caused brief panic on the stock market this week. On the same morning the Pentagon story broke, National Party leader Christopher Luxon was on RNZ defending his party's use of AI images. National have chosen to put themselves in the same frame as anxiety inducing stories that erode trust.

  3. All political leaders grapple with approval ratings and we are constantly updated by pollsters on leading candidates likability and trustworthiness. National leader Christopher Luxon’s public approval ratings are low, and specifically the public questions how relatable and trustworthy he is. If there is one thing any politician struggling with public trust shouldn’t do, it’s put your photo next to an AI-generated fake.

  4. The style of AI generated imagery is not akin to stock images - stock images were taken by real people and are of real people. When you are trying to earn the trust of real people don’t talk to them through unreal fakery. Real people don’t trust unreal fakes, they trust other real people. Real healthcare workers, real victims of crime.

  5. Whilst so far no party has indulged the use of AI beyond fake people in fake scenarios (that we know of), it’s early days in the campaign. It's a small step on a slippery slope to real people in fake scenarios or the voicing of fake stories - a blurry line that would be extremely difficult to police. We should act now and have a total ban on the use of generative AI in election campaigns to ensure they are honest and can be trusted, upholding the fragile values of our democracy.

Photo credit: AI generated image of “Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins holding hands while running through a field of flowers”

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