Public warnings about AI misinformation needed before election, peers told

Government chief scientific adviser, Professor Dame Angela McLean, said a public information campaign was needed to warn people about AI risks.

Martyn Landi
Tuesday 28 November 2023 16:40 GMT
A woman’s hands using a laptop keyboard (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
A woman’s hands using a laptop keyboard (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

A public information campaign to show people who they could be tricked by AI-powered misinformation should be run before the next election, the Government’s chief scientific adviser has said.

Professor Dame Angela McLean said the Government was “extremely worried” about the risks artificial intelligence tools could pose in creating and spreading misinformation and disinformation at the next general election, which could take place next year.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee during its inquiry into large language models – the AI technology which powers apps such as ChatGPT – Dame Angela said the Government was “in the process right now of thinking about what to do” about the issue.

However, she told peers she was not “completely happy that we’re doing enough about it”.

“This is my personal opinion, don’t take this an a GO Science (Government Office for Science) opinion, I think we need a public information campaign,” she said.

“It may be that right now is not the right time, but I think we need a public information campaign to let people know in what form misinformation and disinformation might take in the run-up to our own upcoming election.”

Earlier this month, fake audio and video of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, believed to have been created with the assistance of AI, were posted online and widely circulated, an incident the Government described as “extremely concerning”.

The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also warned that advances in AI will be exploited by malicious actors to spread disinformation and impact democratic processes, including elections.

When asked what she thought any public information campaign should involve, Dame Angela said: “I can tell you what I would do – I would go away and talk to the experts I already know who work on misinformation and disinformation in other arenas and my understanding is they would tell me ‘show people what the tricks are, show people how they would be tricked’.”

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