'' Terrified '' A.I. researcher hopes to thwart ELECTION deepfakes :

FOR NEARLY 30 years, Oren Etzioni was among the most optimistic of artificial intelligence researchers.

But in 2019 Dr. Etzioni, a University of Washington professor and founding chief executive of the Allen Institute for A.I. became one of the first researchers to warn that a new breed of A.I. would accelerate the spread of disinformation online.

And by the middle of last year, he said, he was distressed that A.I. generated deepfakes would swing a major election. He founded a nonprofit organization, TrueMedia.org in January hoping to fight that threat.

On Tuesday last, the organizers released free tools for identifying digital disinformation, with a plan to put them in the hands of the journalists, fact checkers and anyone else trying to figure out what is real online.

The tools, available from the TrueMedia.org website to anyone approved by the group, are designed to detect fake and doctored images, audio and video. They review links to media files and quickly determine whether they should be trusted.

Dr. Etzioni sees these tools as an improvement over the patchwork defense currently being used to detect misleading or deceptive A.I. content. But in a year when billions of people worldwide are set to vote in elections, he paints a bleak picture of what lies ahead.

'' I'm terrified,'' he said. '' There is a very good chance we are going to see a tsunami of misinformation.''

In just the first few months of the year, A.I. technologies helped create fake voice calls from President Biden, fake Taylor Swift images and audio ads, and an entire fake interview that seemed to show a Ukrainian official claiming the responsibility for a terrorist attack in Moscow.

Detecting such disinformation is always difficult - and the tech industry continues to release increasingly powerful A.I. systems that will generate increasingly convincing deepfakes and make decisions even harder.

Many artificial researchers warn that the threat is gathering steam. Last month, more than a thousand people - including Dr. Etzioni and several other prominent A.I. researchers signed an open letter calling for laws that would make the developers and distributors of A.I. audio and visual services liable if their technology was easily used to create harmful deepfakes.

At an event in New York hosted by Columbia University last Thursday, Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, interviewed Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google, who warned that videos, even fake ones, could '' drive voting behavior, human behavior, moods, everything.''

"' I don't think we're ready,'' Mr. Schmidt said. ''The problem is going to get much worse over the next few years. Maybe or maybe not by November, but certainly in the next cycle.''

The tech industry is well aware of the threat. Even as companies race to advance generative A.I. systems, they are scrambling to limit the damage that these technologies can do.

Anthropic, Google, Meta and OpenAI have all announced plans to limit or label election related uses of their artificial intelligence services.

In February, 20 tech companies - including Amazon, Microsoft, TikTok and X - signed a voluntary pledge to prevent deceptive A.I. content from disrupting voting.

The Master Global Essay continues. The World Students Society thanks authors Cade Metz and Tiffany Hsu.


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