Major tech companies sign pact to fight AI election interference

Executives from Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and TikTok gather at Munich Security Conference to announce new voluntary framework

The agreement at the German city's annual security meeting comes as more than 50 countries are due to hold national elections in 2024. Reuters
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Major technology companies signed a pact on Friday to voluntarily adopt “reasonable precautions” to prevent artificial intelligence tools from being used to disrupt democratic elections around the world.

Tech executives from Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and TikTok gathered at the Munich Security Conference to announce a new voluntary framework for how they will respond to AI-generated deepfakes that deliberately trick voters.

Twelve other companies – including Elon Musk's X – are also signing on to the accord.

“Everybody recognises that no one tech company, no one government, no one civil society organisation is able to deal with the advent of this technology and its possible nefarious use on their own,” said Nick Clegg, president of global affairs for Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, in an interview ahead of the summit.

The accord is largely symbolic, but takes aim at increasingly realistic AI-generated images, audio and video “that deceptively fake or alter the appearance, voice, or actions of political candidates, election officials, and other key stakeholders in a democratic election, or that provide false information to voters about when, where, and how they can lawfully vote”.

The companies are not committing to ban or remove deepfakes. Instead, the accord outlines methods they will use to try to detect and label deceptive AI content when it is created or distributed on their platforms.

It notes the companies will share best practices with each other and provide “swift and proportionate responses” when that content starts to spread.

The vagueness of the commitments and lack of any binding requirements likely helped win over a diverse number of companies, but may disappoint pro-democracy activists and watchdogs looking for stronger assurances.

“The language isn't quite as strong as one might have expected,” said Rachel Orey, senior associate director of the Elections Project at the Bipartisan Policy Centre.

“I think we should give credit where credit is due, and acknowledge that the companies do have a vested interest in their tools not being used to undermine free and fair elections. That said, it is voluntary, and we'll be keeping an eye on whether they follow through.”

The agreement at the German city's annual security meeting comes as more than 50 countries are due to hold national elections in 2024. Some have already done so, including Bangladesh, Taiwan, Pakistan and most recently Indonesia.

Attempts at AI-generated election interference have already begun, such as when AI robocalls that mimicked US President Joe Biden’s voice tried to discourage people from voting in New Hampshire’s primary election last month.

Updated: March 05, 2024, 10:33 AM