Aiming to Reignite Political Engagement Among Youth National virtual session “Does Democracy Really Matter?” to tackle alarming decline in faith in democracy

Aiming to Reignite Political Engagement Among Youth National virtual session “Does Democracy Really Matter?” to tackle alarming decline in faith in democracy

With the UK general election just weeks away, the Sir David Amess UK Children’s Parliament (www.childrensparliament.uk) is raising urgent concerns about the potential for artificial intelligence (AI) to be weaponised to mislead voters and undermine faith in democracy itself.

In the run-up to the national polls, experts have sounded the alarm about the growing sophistication of AI systems to generate highly realistic “deepfake” images, video and audio that could be used to launch disinformation campaigns and fake smear attacks against candidates.

“The general election is one of the most important events of the year, a true highlight. If AI is used to create false rumors, it could divide our society,” warned Aryan Shekar, the 11-year-old Child Chancellor of the Exchequer from Westminster Under School. 

“While AI has many benefits, it’s vital not to use it to harm others’ chances of being elected. Therefore, we should use AI responsibly and only for good causes and intentions.”

Shekar, who recently led a high-level conversation on AI ethics with renowned A.I. pioneer and expert Emad Mostaque, is raising the clarion call as part of the Children’s Parliament’s next national virtual session titled “Does Democracy Really Matter?” The event will be held from 4:00pm to 5:30pm on the Wakelet Microsoft 365 platform.

The young parliamentarians’ concerns echo those from leading researchers who have urged swift action to safeguard the electoral process. A new study from the Alan Turing Institute’s Centre for Emerging Technology and Security (Cetas) concluded that AI-generated media could be exploited for “character assassinations on politicians, to spread hate, erode trust in democracy and to create false endorsements.”

“Regulators must act quickly to introduce safeguards protecting the electoral process from the threat posed by artificial intelligence,” the Cetas report warned, calling on Ofcom and the Electoral Commission to establish clear guidelines around political parties’ use of AI for campaigning.

Among the risks highlighted, researchers pointed to the potential for AI systems to craft highly convincing fake content falsely claiming a candidate has withdrawn from the race, reshaping voter attitudes on key issues through misinformation, or even undermining the integrity of the voting process itself by spreading disinformation about when, where or how to cast a ballot.

“Right now, there is no clear guidance or expectations for preventing AI being used to create false or misleading electoral information,” said Sam Stockwell, the Turing Institute research associate who led the study. “That’s why it’s so important for regulators to act quickly before it’s too late.”

While some social platforms have started labeling AI-generated content, the authors called for much more comprehensive measures and public-private cooperation to insulate the electoral process from the corrosive effects of AI disruption.

“Regulators can do more to help the public distinguish fact from fiction and ensure voters don’t lose faith in the democratic process,” said Dr. Alexander Babuta, Cetas’ director.

The Commons Science Committee has also weighed in, with outgoing chair Greg Clark warning that AI watchdogs are “under-resourced” compared to major tech developers, and calling for a potential industry levy to help bolster regulatory oversight.

Against this backdrop, the Children’s Parliament is using its virtual podium to elevate youth voices and perspectives on one of the most pressing issues facing the nation’s democratic institutions.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get ahead of the threats posed by AI before it’s too late,” Shekar said. “As children, we may be younger but we understand the risks, and we want to ensure a vibrant, trustworthy democracy for our future. That’s why I’m urging policymakers, technologists, and all citizens to take heed and take action.”

The Children’s Parliament session promises a lively discussion and debate as the nation’s youngest citizens grapple with securing the integrity of elections in the age of AI. With strong voices like Shekar’s rallying the next generation.

Posted: 6th June 2024