GCHQ has said it believes it can use artificial intelligence (AI) to help expose disinformation attacks by hostile foreign states trying to undermine the UK’s democracy.
This includes, the agency said, uncovering “deepfake” videos and audio material spread online to mislead the public.
AI could also be used to help tackle child sex abuse, trafficking and cyber attacks because of its ability to analyse huge volumes of data at speed.
Sky News’s Into The Grey Zone podcast also explores how technology is being used in the fight against disinformation.
Ahead of the publication on Thursday of a new paper that offers an “ethical framework” for the use of AI in its operations, Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, called the impact of AI on his agency “profound”.
“AI is already invaluable in many of our missions as we protect the country, its people and way of life,” he said in a statement.
“It allows our brilliant analysts to manage vast volumes of complex data and improves decision-making in the face of increasingly complex threats – from protecting children to improving cyber security.
“While this unprecedented technological evolution comes with great opportunity, it also poses significant ethical challenges for all of society, including GCHQ.
“Today we are setting out our plan and commitment to the ethical use of AI in our mission.
“I hope it will inspire further thinking at home and abroad about how we can ensure fairness, transparency and accountability to underpin the use of AI.”
The paper comes ahead of the publication – expected next month – of a long-awaited “integrated review” of the UK’s defence, security and foreign policy.
GCHQ outlined how adversaries exploit artificial intelligence to undermine public debate with fake videos and audio material.
AI can also be used to analyse the beliefs or political thinking of an individual to be able to target him or her with specially tailored information that has the best chance of being able to influence their mind.
“A growing number of states are using AI-enabled tools and techniques to pursue political ends by spreading disinformation to shape public perceptions and undermine trust,” GCHQ said.
At the same time the technology could help the UK in responding to this threat, such as by fact-checking online information and identifying deepfakes, according to the agency.
It could also be used to help identify so-called “troll farms” that generate large volumes of fake or distorted posts spread across social media platforms, for example to amplify divisions in a society over issues like politics, race, and even the coronavirus pandemic.