The rise of AI chatbots and the emergence of new TV stations have raised significant concerns regarding their potential impact on future elections. Activists and even rogue states can exploit generative AI technology to influence the outcome of UK elections. With the exponential growth of artificial intelligence chatbots, the number of votes cast based on misleading news stories created by these bots is a cause for alarm. Additionally, false imagery and vocal mimicry generated by natural language processing tools can deceive voters, leading them to choose candidates under false pretenses.
The threat of misinformation
Generative AI technology poses a pressing threat to the integrity of news and information. Its capacity to produce authentic text on various subjects has led to the rapid growth of applications like ChatGPT, amassing over 100 million users within two months of its launch. NewsGuard, an organization analyzing the credibility of news outlets, identified 49 AI-written news and information sites in May, which had surged to 217 by the latest count. The sheer volume of AI-generated “news” articles raises concerns about the dissemination of misinformation.
The use of AI-generated false imagery and vocal mimicry adds another layer of concern. Recent instances, such as the circulation of an AI-generated fake image depicting an explosion outside the US Department of Defense and the admission by Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis’ campaign of using AI-created false images to discredit his rival, illustrate the potential for manipulation. Additionally, Microsoft’s AI tool can replicate a person’s voice with just three seconds of sample audio, further blurring the line between truth and deception.
The role of new TV news outlets
The upcoming UK elections will be the first to witness the involvement of Britain’s youngest TV news outlets, GB News and Talk TV. Controversially, both channels have MPs as hosts, pushing the boundaries of political impartiality. There are concerns regarding their potential role in formal election debates. The need for unbiased news becomes even more critical as these new stations seek to shape public opinion during election cycles.
Rachel Corp, ITN’s chief executive, has emphasized the pressing threat posed by generative AI to factual information. Corp has called for urgent government intervention, proposing the establishment of a working group to address the potential damage caused by this technology. She warns that the productivity of generative AI may overwhelm trusted news outlets, leading people to lose trust in the information presented to them. The flood of AI-generated content poses a risk of information overload, potentially eroding public trust in news sources.
Election day misinformation
One of the key concerns raised is the potential for AI-generated misinformation to proliferate on election day when public service broadcasters (PSBs) are bound by election day purdah, refraining from reporting on politics while polls are open. This creates an environment where misleading information can circulate without the usual means of counteraction provided by PSBs. The effectiveness and relevance of the purdah policy need to be reassessed in light of the evolving media landscape.
Political parties in the UK have been cautious in deploying AI technology for election material. While mundane tasks like fundraising emails may be entrusted to AI-powered bots, there is still a reluctance to rely on them for more critical campaign activities. The lack of cultural understanding and local knowledge possessed by AI bots can result in vote-losing mistakes. Political parties prioritize caution to avoid alienating their voter base and unintentionally undermining their campaigns.
Generative AI technology provides opportunities for activists and even rogue states to influence UK elections. Social media platforms like Twitter may experience an upsurge in uncivil discourse and harassment targeting political candidates. The absence of significant consequences for those pursuing such agendas can further exacerbate the problem. Regulators like Ofcom must carefully consider the implications of new TV news channels hosting election debates while ensuring that the main broadcasters continue to provide a neutral platform for political discourse.
The exponential growth of AI chatbots and the emergence of new TV stations have significant implications for future elections. The spread of misinformation through generative AI poses a grave threat to the flow of factual information. The potential impact of false imagery and vocal mimicry generated by AI tools further complicates the issue. It is crucial for unbiased news sources to remain steadfast in providing reliable information to counterbalance the influence of evolving technologies. Regulators and governments must address these concerns promptly, safeguarding the integrity of democratic processes and ensuring the trustworthiness of information in electoral campaigns.