AI Poses Threat To Next UK Election

Advances in AI allow the creation and effective dissemination of misinformation, the UK's National Cyber Security Centre warns.

Deepfake videos are a particular concern.

Rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) create an escalating threat to the integrity of elections, according to a recent warning from the UK's National Cyber Security Centre. In particular, the NCSC highlighted the risks posed to next year's general election, and other major elections in Western democracies.

AI And The Spread Of Misinformation

Elections in the UK use paper ballots, an "old school" approach that avoids the risks of digital machines, and that has proven remarkably robust in the past.

The NCSC, which operates under the umbrella of GCHQ, the UK's intelligence, security and cyber agency, is more concerned about other risks, particularly the spread of misinformation, including the creation and dissemination of deepfake videos.

Last week, deepfake videos and audio of London Mayor Sadiq Khan emerged, in which he appeared to promote a major pro-Palestinian rally while dismissing the importance of Remembrance Day ceremonies, which were held on the same day.

The NCSC is particularly concerned about the risks that AI will be used to create and amplify the impacts of such realistic deepfake videos and other forms of disinformation, enabling them to spread across social media at an alarming pace.

The Evolving Threat Landscape

The landscape has changed significantly since the last UK general election in 2019, especially in the aftermath of Russia's war with Ukraine. The conflict has made influencing political discourse in democracies more attractive to state actors, leading to the need for enhanced cybersecurity measures.

Often, malign actors will not seek simply to tilt the balance in favor of one or other party or candidate, but will aim to stoke division, with the intention of destabilizing the population.

The NCSC additionally raised concerns about the emergence of cyber actors that are aligned with hostile states, such as Russia, and share the same ideological goals, but who are willing to act with less restraint.

Strategic Response

In response to these evolving threats, the UK has established a Defending Democracy Taskforce and a Joint Election Security Preparedness unit. While Russia remains a focus, the NCSC report also discusses ongoing cyber threats from China, Iran, and North Korea.

As the world navigates the complexities of AI-driven threats to democracy, the NCSC's warning serves as a call to action for robust cybersecurity measures and international collaboration to safeguard the integrity of elections.

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