Criminals and hostile state actors could hijack Britain’s democratic process by deploying AI-generated “deepfakes” to mislead voters, UK Home Secretary James Cleverly cautioned in remarks ahead of meetings with major tech companies. 

Speaking to The Times, Cleverly emphasised the rapid advancement of AI technology and its potential to undermine elections not just in the UK but globally. He warned that malign actors working on behalf of nations like Russia and Iran could generate thousands of highly realistic deepfake images and videos to disrupt the democratic process.

“Increasingly today the battle of ideas and policies takes place in the ever-changing and expanding digital sphere,” Cleverly told the newspaper. “The era of deepfake and AI-generated content to mislead and disrupt is already in play.”

The Home Secretary plans to urge collective action from Silicon Valley giants like Google, Meta, Apple, and YouTube when he meets with them this week. His aim is to implement “rules, transparency, and safeguards” to protect democracy from deepfake disinformation.

Cleverly’s warnings come after a series of deepfake audios imitating Labour leader Keir Starmer and London Mayor Sadiq Khan circulated online last year. Fake BBC News videos purporting to examine PM Rishi Sunak’s finances have also surfaced.

The tech meetings follow a recent pact signed by major AI companies like Adobe, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft during the Munich Security Conference to take “reasonable precautions” against disruptions caused by deepfake content during elections worldwide.

As concerns over the proliferation of deepfakes continue to grow, the world must confront the challenges they pose in shaping public discourse and potentially influencing electoral outcomes.

(Image Credit: Lauren Hurley / No 10 Downing Street under OGL 3 license)

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