AI poses security threat, says UK counter terrorism advisor

Jonathan Hall KC fears youngsters will be manipulated by extremists using chatbots

Jonathan Hall has urged developers to abandon their 'tech utopian' mindset in a bid to protect vulnerable people. Reuters
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The UK's terrorism watchdog has warned of the dangers of artificial intelligence over fears extremists will use it to groom youngsters.

Jonathan Hall KC, the UK's independent terrorism reviewer, believes the national security threat from AI is growing.

He has urged developers to abandon their “tech utopian” mindset in a bid to protect vulnerable people from extremist threats amid fears the technology will be misused by terrorists.

"You’ve got to hardwire the defences against what you know people will do with it,” he told The Guardian.

“What worries me is the suggestibility of humans when immersed in this world and the computer is off the hook.

"Use of language, in the context of national security, matters because ultimately language persuades people to do things.”

It comes as security services are becoming increasingly concerned about the ability of chatbots to groom youngsters.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to raise the issue during his visit to the US to meet President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

Jonathan Hall warned new legislation might be required to monitor the technology. Photo: 6KBW College Hill

Mr Sunak said that the UK was aiming to become a global centre for AI and its regulation, which he believes will deliver “massive benefits to the economy and society”.

In 2021 a record number of children were arrested on suspicion of terror offences in Britain, with experts linking the increase in online radicalisation to the shutdown of schools during the Covid pandemic.

Under-18s accounted for 13 per cent of all terrorist arrests, up from 8 per cent in 2020.

Mr Hall has pledged to focus on online terrorism after he was reappointed to the role for another three-year term.

“We need absolute clarity about how many people are working on these things and their moderation,” he said.

He warned new legislation might be required to monitor the technology.

Updated: June 05, 2023, 12:35 PM