In 2018, the world was shocked to learn that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of at least 50 million Facebook users without their consent and used it to influence elections in the United States and abroad.
An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News resulted in footage of the firm’s then CEO, Alexander Nix, suggesting it had no issues with deliberately misleading the public to support its political clients, saying:
“It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true. As long as they’re believed”
The scandal was a wake-up call about the dangers of both social media and big data, as well as how fragile democracy can be in the face of the rapid technological change being experienced globally.
How does artificial intelligence (AI) fit into this picture? Could it also be used to influence elections and threaten the integrity of democracies worldwide?
According to Trish McCluskey, associate professor at Deakin University, and many others, the answer is an emphatic yes.
The Pentagon’s chief digital and AI officer Craig Martell warns that generative AI language models like #ChatGPT could become the “perfect tool” for #disinformation. They lack context and people take their words as fact. #AI #cybersecurity pic.twitter.com/pPCHY2zKJH
— Realtime Global Data Intelligence Platform (@KIDataApp) May 5, 2023
McCluskey told Cointelegraph that large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT “can generate indistinguishable content from human-written text,” which can contribute to disinformation campaigns or the dissemination of fake news online.
Among other examples of how AI can potentially threaten democracies, McCluskey highlighted AI’s capacity to produce deep fakes, which can fabricate videos of public figures like presidential candidates and manipulate public opinion.
While it is still generally easy to tell when a video is a deepfake, the technology is advancing rapidly and will eventually become indistinguishable from reality.
For example, a deepfake video of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried that linked to a phishing website shows how lips can often be out of sync with the words, leaving viewers feeling that something is not quite right.
Over the weekend, a verified account posing as FTX founder SBF posted dozens of copies of this deepfake video offering FTX users “compensation for the loss” in a phishing scam designed to drain…
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