• Midjourney performs worst, generating misleading images in 65pc of tests
• EU looks to AI, advanced data analytics to swiftly detect cyberthreats

NEW YORK: Image creation tools powered by artificial intelligence from companies including OpenAI and Microsoft can be used to produce photos that could promote election or voting-related disinformation, despite each having policies against creating misleading content, researchers said in a report on Wednesday.

The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a nonprofit that monitors online hate speech, used generative AI tools to create images of US President Joe Biden laying in a hospital bed and election workers smashing voting machines, raising worries about falsehoods ahead of the US presidential election in November.

“The potential for such AI-generated images to serve as ‘photo evidence’ could exacerbate the spread of false claims, posing a significant challenge to preserving the integrity of elections,” CCDH researchers said in the report.

CCDH tested OpenAI’s ChatGPT Plus, Microsoft’s Image Creator, Midjourney and Stability AI’s DreamStudio, which can each generate images from text prompts.

The report follows an announcement last month that OpenAI, Microsoft and Stability AI were among a group of 20 tech companies that signed an agreement to work together to prevent deceptive AI content from interfering with elections taking place globally this year. Midjourney was not among the initial group of signatories.

CCDH said the AI tools generated images in 41 per cent of the researchers’ tests and were most susceptible to prompts that asked for photos depicting election fraud, such as voting ballots in the trash, rather than images of Biden or former US President Donald Trump.

ChatGPT Plus and Image Creator were successful at blocking all prompts when asked for images of candidates, said the report.

However, Midjourney performed the worst out of all the tools, generating misleading images in 65pc of the researchers’ tests, it said.

Some Midjourney images are available publicly to other users, and CCDH said there is evidence some people are already using the tool to create misleading political content. One successful prompt used by a Midjourney user was “donald trump getting arrested, high quality, paparazzi photo”.

In an email, Midjourney founder David Holz said that “updates related specifically to the upcoming US election are coming soon”, adding that images created last year were not representative of the research lab’s current moderation practices.

A Stability AI spokesperson said the startup updated its policies on Friday to prohibit “fraud or the creation or promotion of disinformation”. An OpenAI spokesperson said the company was working to prevent abuse of its tools, while Microsoft did not respond to request for comment.

AI use against cyberthreats

Meanwhile, the European Union is poised to use artificial intelligence and other tools to create a “cyber shield” protecting critical infrastructure and sectors from threats, officials said on Wednesday.

The move is enshrined in a new piece of legislation, the Cyber Solidarity Act, that was agreed overnight by negotiators from EU member states and the European Parliament.

The law, which needs a final sign-off from the parliament and the European Council, “will leverage state-of-the-art tools and infrastructures, such as artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics, to swiftly detect cyberthreats and incidents,” a European Commission statement said.

It will do that through the set-up of a European Cybersecurity Alert System designed to give real-time information to authorities.

The initiative comes as EU countries face rising threats from cyber sabotage, with infrastructure increasingly linked online and AI potentially allowing bad actors to better exploit weaknesses.

“It comes at a crucial time for EU cybersecurity, as the cyberthreat landscape in the EU continues to be impacted by geopolitical events,” the statement said.

A Cybersecurity Emergency Mechanism would also be established under the law to oversee preparedness in health, energy and other critical sectors.

It would be able to tap “trusted providers” in an EU Cybersecurity Reserve to help EU institutions or countries — or even outside nations associated with the bloc — counter large-scale attacks.

To that end, the EU negotiators agreed an update to an existing Cybersecurity Act allowing the adoption of European certification sche­m­es such providers could qualify for.

“The Cyber Solidarity Act is a crucial step to establish a European cyber shield,” said EU internal market commissioner Thierry Breton.

The enhanced cooperation it will bring will contribute to “the security of our citizens,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2024

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