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AI-fuelled disinformation could disrupt the election next year, officials warn ahead of summit

Artificial intelligence technology could be used to manipulate the next election, ministers have been warned in an official assessment of AI risk.

Rishi Sunak will make a speech on Thursday previewing next week’s AI Safety Summit, where he will negotiate with other world leaders on a regulatory framework to control the emerging tech.

He is expected to tell the public he is “giving you the peace of mind that we will keep you safe, while making sure you and your children have all the opportunities for a better future that AI can bring”.

His administration has also published a detailed report on the potential future dangers that AI poses, compiled by civil servants from the Government Office for Science (GOS) and other agencies advised by an expert body.

One document, laying out the risks likely to have a major impact between now and 2025, highlights “cyber attacks, fraud, scams, impersonation and child sexual abuse images” as forms of misuse which are already possible using existing technology.

The report said: “Use of the technology by criminals will highly likely accelerate the frequency and sophistication of scams, fraud, impersonation, ransomware, currency theft, data harvesting, child sexual abuse images and voice cloning.”

Warning of the potential impact on democracy, it added: “Generative AI could lead to a pollution of the public information ecosystem with hyper-realistic bots and synthetic media (‘deepfakes’) influencing societal debate and reflecting pre-existing social biases… Generative AI tools have already been shown capable of persuading humans on political issues and can be used to increase the scale, persuasiveness and frequency of disinformation and misinformation.”

AI will be able to automate personalised disinformation for individuals designed to target their biases and appeal as much as possible, the report said.

It also assessed the risk of an “existential” danger from AI, which some experts fear could see machines with superhuman intelligence taking control of the world and wiping out humanity. Despite AI not having a physical existence in itself, the agency said, there is a chance that “future frontier models will be effective at manipulating users to carry out physical tasks”.

The report concluded: “Given the significant uncertainty in predicting AI developments, there is insufficient evidence to rule out that highly capable future frontier AI systems, if misaligned or inadequately controlled, could pose an existential threat. However, many experts consider this a risk with very low likelihood and few plausible routes to being realised.”

Mr Sunak is expected to say in his speech in London: “AI will bring new knowledge, new opportunities for economic growth, new advances in human capability, and the chance to solve problems we once thought beyond us. But it also brings new dangers and new fears.

“So, the responsible thing for me to do is to address those fears head-on, giving you the peace of mind that we will keep you safe, while making sure you and your children have all the opportunities for a better future that AI can bring. Doing the right thing, not the easy thing, means being honest with people about the risks from these technologies.”

The Government has warned technology firms that society will not accept the widespread use of AI, and the potential benefits that it could bring, unless they believe that it is safe.

Next week’s summit, taking place at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire, is set to be attended by leaders including US Vice President Kamala Harris and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.

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