Home secretary warns ‘malign actors’ will use AI deepfakes in attempt to rig UK election

The home secretary has warned that the era of deepfakes generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) being used to disrupt elections is “already in play”. 

In an interview with The Times newspaper, James Cleverly said the technology could provide the “perfect storm” for those looking to hijack the upcoming general election, which the prime minister has confirmed will take place at some point this year.

It comes as the home secretary is set to meet Silicon Valley bosses in a bid to urge greater action from large technology companies to protect democracy.

Earlier this month tech giants including Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI, and 17 others agreed to work together to prevent deceptive AI content.

However, this pact did not commit to banning deepfake videos.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, fell victim to a fake AI recording of him supposedly making inflammatory remarks in the run up to Armistice Day protests last year.

Khan responded by saying the regulation around the fakes is currently “not fit for purpose.”

He warned: “My worry is, in a close election, a close referendum, these sorts of deepfake videos and audios can be the difference, but also my concern is, there are sometimes examples where these sorts of deepfake audios can lead to serious disturbances, particularly when emotions are running high”.

Cleverly told The Times that “increasingly today the battle of ideas and policies takes place in the ever-changing and expanding digital sphere”.

He said: “The era of deepfake and AI-generated content to mislead and disrupt is already in play. The landscape it is inserted into needs its rules, transparency and safeguards for its users. 

“The questions asked about digital content and the sources of digital content are no less relevant than those asked about the content and sources at dispatch boxes, newsrooms or billboard ads.”

He argued that “malign actors” and criminals would attempt to use generative AI to quickly produce thousands of illicit images or deepfakes, that could then be shared with millions on social media within seconds.

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