Foreign Influence Poses Huge Threat to UK Election, Regulators Warn in New Report

A new report by the Alan Turing Institute has warned that unregulated artificial intelligence content could influence the upcoming UK general election. Here’s the full story. 

Potential Threats

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As the general election in July draws ever closer, regulators and researchers have expressed increasing concern about the potential threats posed by artificial intelligence (AI) content to the democratic process.

AI Disinformation

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With fears of AI-generated disinformation and foreign interference mounting, the Alan Turing Institute and the Electoral Commission have called for urgent measures to safeguard the integrity of the election.

Bleak Reading

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The Alan Turing Institute’s recent report makes for bleak reading for any fans of democracy.

Damaging Democracy

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The report highlights several early signs of how AI-generated content could damage our democratic government systems, with instances of deepfake audio and video clips falsely depicting becoming alarmingly frequent. 

Deepfake Audio

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Notable examples include deepfake audio of London Mayor Sadiq Khan making inflammatory remarks and US President Joe Biden seemingly discouraging voters from going to the polls in the New Hampshire primaries. 

“Poses All Sorts of Issues”

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The report’s lead author, Sam Stockwell, stated, “The challenge in discerning between AI-generated and authentic content poses all sorts of issues down the line.”

“Fake News”

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He continued, “It allows bad actors to exploit that uncertainty by dismissing deepfake content as allegations, there’s fake news, it poses problems with fact-checking, and all of these things are detrimental to the fundamental principles of democracy.”

Joint Guidance

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The Alan Turing Institute report urges regulators like Ofcom and the Electoral Commission to issue joint guidance on the fair use of AI by political parties during election campaigns. 

“No Clear Guidance”

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Stockwell stated that there was “no clear guidance or expectations for preventing AI being used to create false or misleading electoral information” and that this problem would only get worse as the election approached. 

“Before It’s Too Late”

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He added, “That’s why it’s so important for regulators to act quickly before it’s too late.”

No Imminent Threat

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Despite the threat posed to democracy by AI-generated misleading content, some researchers were quick to dissuade fears of an imminent threat posed by such content. 

“Shouldn’t Overplay the Idea”

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Dr Alexander Babuta, director of the Centre for Emerging Technology and Security at the Alan Turing Institute, stated, “While we shouldn’t overplay the idea that our elections are no longer secure, particularly as worldwide evidence demonstrates no clear evidence of a result being changed by AI, we nevertheless must use this moment to act and make our elections resilient to the threats we face.”

“Regulators Can Do More”

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She continued, “Regulators can do more to help the public distinguish fact from fiction and ensure voters don’t lose faith in the democratic process.”

Adding Watermarks

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To prevent the spread of such content, Dr Christian Schroeder de Witt, an AI researcher at the  University of Oxford, suggested solutions like adding watermarks to AI-generated content and making it easier to verify the authenticity of digital media.

Voter Literacy

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The Electoral Commission has clarified that it is responding to the emerging AI threat by enhancing voter literacy through its website. 

Scrutinise Online Content

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A new hub will be created to provide voters with resources to navigate digital campaign material critically. It will include information urging voters to scrutinise online content, especially on social media. 

“False Information”

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A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission stated, “We are well-placed to combat false information about the voting process and the administration of elections.”

“Factual and Accurate Information”

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They continued, “During this election period, we will provide voters with factual and accurate information, and work to correct misleading information that we see about how elections are run.”

Not the Only Threat

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AI-generated content is not the only threat to democratic accountability, however. The National Security Strategy Committee recently warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the potential for foreign interference from countries such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. 

“Foreign Interference”

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In their letter to the Prime Minister, they wrote, “It is our view that the UK must be prepared for the possibility of ‘foreign interference’ during the upcoming election campaign.

Increasing Need

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As the general election nears, the need for regulatory action and voter education becomes increasingly pressing. 

Online News

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As people increasingly get most of their information online and from social media, the combined efforts of regulators and research institutions are required to safeguard the democratic process from AI-generated disinformation and foreign interference. 

Expanding AI

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As AI expands into more facets of everyday life, the warnings from groups like the Alan Turing Institute are critical to ensuring that elections remain free and fair. However, whether their recommendations will be listened to before it’s too late remains to be seen. 

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The post Foreign Influence and AI Poses Huge Threat to UK Election, Regulators Warn in New Report first appeared on Edge Media.

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Grant Gallacher is a seasoned writer with expertise in politics and impactful daily news. His work, deeply rooted in addressing issues that resonate with a wide audience, showcases an unwavering commitment to bringing forth the stories that matter. He is also known for satirical writing and stand up comedy.

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