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World Unprepared For AI Impacts In Biggest Ever Election Year
AI has the potential to end democracy as we know it - starting next year.
Next year, voters in at least three major democracies—the US, UK, and India—will be heading to the polls.
For the first time, powerful generative artificial intelligence (GAI) technologies are available, meaning that convincing deep fakes and disinformation campaigns could be deployed with the intention of influencing the outcomes. While hostile nation states with a history of interfering in elections (not least Russia) pose an obvious threat, the ease with which GAI can be used means that potentially anyone can create and disseminate harmful materials.
Martina Larkin, the chief executive of Project Liberty, suggests that politicians are natural targets for AI-generated misinformation. She warned that the phenomenon could now occur at a far larger scale than it has to date.
A number of high-profile figures have been the subject of AI-driven campaigns in the past, including President Joe Biden, Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy, London Major Sadiq Khan, and many others. With the UK set to hold a general election, the US a presidential election, and India choosing a new prime minister, there are fears that voters are not prepared for the scale and sophistication of AI-generated disinformation that will be disseminated over the coming months.
Various measures have been proposed to address the problems, including regulation that requires watermarking of AI-generated content. However, these will simply not be followed by hostile actors. Additionally, the combination of GAI, bots, and social media means that disinformation can spread rapidly, in a way that wasn't previously possible. We have seen that Twitter/X and other platforms can be slow to address the problem and remove fraudulent and misleading material.
Ultimately, the most effective solution is likely to be education. Audiences need to be aware of the possibility that the "photographs" and "videos" they are viewing may actually be fake, and that they should check information before believing it. However, this is a high burden to place on voters, especially at such short notice.
This will be an election year like no other.
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