24 May 2023

Chris Luxon defends National's use of AI

4:26 pm on 24 May 2023
Christopher Luxon

National Party leader Christohper Luxon (file photo). Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

National Party leader Christopher Luxon has defended the use of AI in election campaign imagery, saying it's the same as buying a stock image - but smarter.

Reports surfaced on Tuesday of the National Party using the technology to generate images of fake nurses, robbers and crime victims in its campaign material.

Party sources confirmed to media their use of AI, but Luxon himself was unaware of it until questioned by reporters.

Speaking to RNZ's Morning Report on Wednesday, he defended the decision.

"Look, that's up to my social media team, but I have no issue with it - I think it's fantastic that they're actually adopting new technology in the way that they have.

"You've got a choice, you either go to an agency, buy a stock photo of an actor playing a role or otherwise you create an AI generated image for a stock image - and I don't see the difference in those two things."

Asked if the party had a policy about the use of AI in an election campaign, he said they were "really clear about where that line is".

"We're just using AI in a quicker, faster, better, more efficient way."

He suggested some of the criticism being levelled at the party - including that it was using AI to avoid any copyright entanglements after being forced to pay $225,000 to rapper Eminem for using music that closely resembled his in a 2014 television advert - was a bit of a stretch.

"I don't know what people are trying to imply there, we've been really sensible in using AI responsibly and we're adopting new technology - that's exactly what New Zealand needs to do in digitising government, it's what our businesses need to be doing as well," he said.

"We're really clear about using AI responsibly but I think some of the assertions overnight and the long bows that have been drawn aren't fair."

The matter does raise questions about whether AI will become more of a tool for election campaigning in New Zealand this year, with the quickly growing technology already having an impact overseas.

Even if political parties can ensure they are using the technology responsibly, the capacity for the technology's misuse and misrepresentation of the truth is high.

Presenter Guyon Espiner asked if he was speaking to the real Christopher Luxon.

"Haha, yes, you definitely are. It's the Kiwis out there in New Zealand I'm feeling incredibly sad about because again, classic economic mismanagement from this Labour government causing pain and suffering.

"That's not on."

Labour's campaign manager Hayden Munro said the party had not used AI in any of its design or advertising in the campaign so far, "and doesn't intend to".

"Chris Hipkins has been clear he wants Labour to run an honest and upfront campaign New Zealanders can trust," he said.

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