Willy Wonka fiasco highlights risks of AI-made ads

Key Points:

  • Social media users call for guidelines on AI use in advertising
  • States consider laws to label political ads generated by AI
  • Big Tech faces potential liability for AI-generated content due to Section 230


The use of AI in advertising is raising concerns and sparking regulatory discussions across the United States. The issue gained attention after incidents such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis utilizing AI-generated images of former President Donald Trump in a political ad, prompting calls for guidelines on AI usage in advertising. In response, state lawmakers in Florida and Wisconsin are considering bills that would mandate political ads generated by AI to be labeled with disclaimers. Several other states have already implemented similar requirements, reflecting the growing importance of state-level regulations as the federal government moves slowly on AI regulation.


Meanwhile, an investigation by 404 Media revealed how ghost kitchens are leveraging AI to create misleading images of their food products for delivery apps like DoorDash and GrubHub. These ghost kitchens are showcasing non-existent or physically impossible food items, raising questions about the authenticity of AI-generated content in advertising. However, the practice is not entirely novel, as traditional food advertising also involves enhancing the appearance of products for marketing purposes.


The absence of strict regulations on AI in advertising can be attributed to the 1996 Communications Decency Act’s Section 230, which shields online platforms from liability for third-party content posted by users. Big Tech companies have not aggressively regulated AI in advertising due to the protection offered by Section 230. Nevertheless, since these companies own and operate many of the AI programs in use, there is a debate over whether the content generated by AI should be considered as originating from the platform itself rather than the user. This ambiguity raises potential liability concerns for tech companies, as courts have not yet provided clear guidance on the matter.


As states and federal authorities grapple with the implications of AI in advertising, the industry faces growing pressure to establish guidelines and oversight to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of AI-generated content. The evolving landscape of AI in advertising highlights the need for a nuanced approach that balances innovation with ethical considerations and consumer protection.



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