Deepfakes could swing close UK election or referendum, Sadiq Khan suggests

16 February 2024, 11:04

Sadiq Khan
Air pollution measures apology. Picture: PA

The mayor made the comments during a visit to the Metropolitan Police’s Command and Control Centre in south London on Thursday.

Deepfakes could swing a close UK election or referendum in future, the Mayor of London has suggested.

Sadiq Khan, who fell victim to a fake AI recording of him supposedly making inflammatory remarks in the run up to Armistice Day protests last year, made the comments during a visit to the Metropolitan Police’s Command and Control Centre in south London on Thursday.

He told the PA news agency that regulation around the fakes is currently “not fit for purpose” and needs strengthening.

He added: “There are some downsides to the advances in technology and in AI. One of those is the use of deepfake videos, deepfake audios.

“I think regulation is not fit for purpose. It’s not an issue of policing, it’s an issue of legislation and regulation.

“The current laws around intellectual property, around copyright, the criminal laws, are not fit for purpose.

“We saw around Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday the consequences of an audio tape.

“My worry is, in a close election, a close referendum, these sorts of deepfake videos and audios can be the difference, but also my concern is, there are sometimes examples where these sorts of deepfake audios can lead to serious disturbances, particularly when emotions are running high.

“That’s why it’s incredibly important that Parliament looks into this and passes laws that are fit for purpose.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Science Innovation and Technology said it was “working to ensure we are ready to respond to threats to our democratic processes, including through our Defending Democracy Taskforce”.

“The Online Safety Act will soon make social media platforms legally responsible for removing illegal mis- and disinformation and enforcing their terms of service,” the spokesperson added.

“We have also introduced the digital imprints regime, which requires certain political campaigning digital material, including AI-generated material, to have a digital imprint that makes clear to voters who is promoting the content.”

Mr Khan was visiting the Command and Control Centre to praise “dramatic” improvements in the way the Met responds to emergency calls, and to speak to frontline staff.

During the visit, he also told PA that people with mental illnesses and their families are happier that police are no longer the default responders to emergency calls.

The Metropolitan Police rolled out Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) in November in a bid to free up officers to deal with crime.

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the previous system was “failing Londoners twice” by not giving those with mental health issues adequate support and by taking up police time that could be used for frontline work.

Mr Khan told PA: “Since November we’ve seen fewer police officer hours being spent with mentally unwell people, we’ve seen fewer people being sectioned inappropriately, but also we’ve seen patients and families being happier with the service their loved ones are receiving.

“It’s early days yet, what it’s meant though is a freeing up of police time to prevent, detect crime, which is really important when you’ve got finite resources.”

Figures show the Met is now answering 91% of 999 calls within 10 seconds, compared with 57% in June 2022.

The force was placed in special measures that month by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS).

Waiting times on non-emergency number 101 have also fallen sharply, from almost eight minutes in June 2022 to one minute 50 seconds last month, as officers are now better at redirecting the more than 25% of calls that do not have a policing purpose.

City Hall spent £2.5 million last year to improve the training and resilience of the force’s Command and Control Centre.

Earlier this week Mr Khan announced his intention to invest an additional £151m in policing and crime prevention when he confirmed his final draft budget for 2024-25, his office said.

By Press Association

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