‘Robust mechanisms’ will fight AI deepfakes before election, minister says

15 December 2023, 10:24

British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference
British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Picture: PA

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan has told MPs the Government is working with social media companies on efforts to fight AI disinformation.

The Government expects to have “robust mechanisms” in place to stop the spread of AI-powered disinformation before the next general election, the Technology Secretary has said.

Michelle Donelan said the Government was working with social media companies on tools to combat AI-generated content which could be used as part of disinformation campaigns.

Giving evidence to MPs on the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Ms Donelan said the Government was “concerned” about the potential impact of AI being used to create deepfakes and other kinds of disinformation during an election campaign and was taking the issue “extremely seriously”.

The UK is due to hold its next general election no later than January 2025.

The Secretary of State said the rise of generative AI – which can be used to create written, audio and video content – had “made it easier” for people to create “more sophisticated” misleading content and “amplifies an existing risk” around online disinformation.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have all been the subject of manipulated images, video or audio in recent months that have been circulated online.

Fact-checking charity Full Fact has warned that AI-generated content is reducing the public’s trust in everything they see online, and has called on the Government to put more funding into media literacy to help people better spot fake content.

In response to the issue, Ms Donelan told MPs the UK was working with allies on its approach to the issue and was also “working very closely with leading tech companies” on potential solutions to combat it, including watermarking content that is AI-generated to identify it and stop it spreading further, as well as detection software capable of spotting content which has been AI-generated.

The Technology Secretary said the work was being lead by Security Minister Tom Tugendhat and the Defending Democracy Taskforce, but that her department had “a seat at the table” for discussions on the issue.

“What I can say is that we are working with social media companies to make sure that something would be in place relatively soon,” Ms Donelan told MPs.

“I’m fully aware of the timeframes that we’re working to in this country, and the potential risks here as well.

“Nobody has a silver bullet answer on this topic, but this is something that the Government is taking extremely seriously.

“We’ve got work streams that are working apace and we’re working with our international counterparts as well, and we do have the Electoral Commission as well.

“We are working to be able to deliver something with social media companies that will be effective in this space.

“Do I expect that by the next general election we will have robust mechanisms in place that will be able to tackle these topics? Absolutely, yes.”

In its annual review, published last month, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre said that artificial intelligence posed a threat to elections, warning that the large language models (LLMs) used in generative AI software would almost certainly be used to generate fake content as part of disinformation campaigns to disrupt the democratic process.

By Press Association

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