China’s ‘Nefarious’ Use Of Artificial Intelligence Could Impact Election Results In India & US: OPED

By: Gp Capt TP Srivastava

The use of Artificial Intelligence in the run-up to elections in nearly 60 countries, including India, could tilt the scales in favor of ‘unsuitable’ candidates. If India’s Election Commission does not crack down, the results could be disastrous for the country.   

The election results of India, the USA, and the EU nations will influence global trade, political affiliations, and each nation’s internal political dynamics.

Two major wars currently in progress with unbelievable intensity have involved almost every nation on the globe, either directly or indirectly. The Chinese intervention in Taiwan’s election with assistance from North Korea is known to all and sundry. And the use of social media to spread false messages has already caused enough concern.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)-generated content has already been used/will be used extensively in days to come. A Beijing-backed group called Storm-1376 (also known as Spamoflauge), for instance, has been known to circulate AI-generated content in the form of fake audio/videos.

It is believed to have attempted widespread false messages during the Taiwan elections. The US has already been hit by one such attempt, although the identity of the group has not yet been established.

Before the New Hampshire primaries of Democrats, hundreds—perhaps thousands—of AI-generated phone calls, mimicking the voice of Joe Biden, were floating all over the US. An ordinary person had no way of establishing whether the voice was genuine or fake.

Deepfake technology and digital puppets are likely to proliferate the advertising campaign during the forthcoming elections.

India In Election Mode

The election ‘festival’ in India is going to commence on April 19 and continue for 42 days. Campaigning is already in full swing in all parts of the country.

Fake messages are already floating. Prominent among these is the news of the misplacement of a large number of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), which the Election Commission of India (ECI) has discarded.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg: in the next 50-odd days, social media will witness a tornado of messages from various political outfits. Embedded in the political tornado will be messages inserted using AI.

AI Interference During Elections?

If media reports and TV debates on every channel are to be believed, the issue of AI, the use/abuse of Deepfake Technology, the creation of Digital Puppets, fake voice messages, etc., has not affected anyone.

The use of AI for disruptive purposes does not require a broadcasting network. Mere insertion of a sensational/controversial message in one social platform will result in the spread of the unsubstantiated message across the nation in their local language within minutes.

The common citizen has no time and/or inclination to verify the authenticity of the message. WhatsApp messaging will enable such messages to spread like wildfire around the country in a jiffy.

The duration of the election—nearly 60 days—enables unfriendly elements to continue posting a barrage of misinformation to create doubts and confusion in ordinary citizens’ minds.

The ECI has issued guidelines to contain viral messaging of false and unsubstantiated contents, according to a hardly-covered news item. Nevertheless, social media is flooded with derogatory messages.

One particular political outfit is blatantly abusing the erstwhile Twitter (now X) to spread rumors. An extremely viral digital puppet video showing world leaders dancing with pretty damsels is spreading like wildfire. This is just the beginning. Posting a video on numerous social platforms is child’s play for any person with a smartphone and a basic knowledge of recording.

Representational Image

Chinese Intervention

The possibility of Chinese intervention cannot be ruled out. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to conclude that Chinese intervention in the Indian election is a foregone assumption.

Hackers from North Korea and Pakistan had reportedly gained vital access to a few US State Department sites in the recent past. They could be viewing the Indian elections as an opportunity to spread fake/false messages to create confusion.

The participation of Indian entities in such subversive activities cannot also be ruled out. Chinese intruders could make extensive use of deepfake technology and digital puppets with original voiceovers of prominent persons and place them on social media in short clips.

Before the person shown as a digital puppet challenges the contents of the video clip, it may have been seen by millions of people. It is needless to emphasize the disastrous effects of such malicious propaganda.

Hackproof EVMs

India has been holding elections using EVMs for nearly two decades. The Opposition parties, in unison, have been raising their voices against the use of EVMs and demanding the use of ballot papers.

It is not outside the realm of imagination that foreign powers might collude with anti-national elements and try to ‘enter’ the hitherto unhackable EVM system. One of the means adopted by a few hacking groups has been to corrupt the data stored in a device.

In one such case, the US State Department took nearly six months to realize that the fed data was being corrupted by introducing small errors, which were not noticed immediately.

Preventive Measures

Is there a possibility to contain the abuse of AI interference during elections? The only and most effective means to stop the abuse of AI is to deny internet facilities. This option is unlikely to be exercised. However, conscientious citizens can minimize the adverse effects by ensuring that they do not abuse social media platforms for posting and forwarding unsubstantiated/derogatory messages.

The world is witnessing a formidable transformation in the political domain of all nations due to developing technologies, which enable false/fake messages to be created and transmitted without anyone having a clue of their origin.

AI is going to play a vital role in the proliferation of nefarious activities by conveying false information. Even original speeches and statements can be embedded with ‘unsuitable’ words and statements without the knowledge of the speaker or transmitting agency.

The moot questions are: Who do we believe, and who do we doubt? The answers to these questions could turn the election results upside down! Perhaps the election results might be decided not by voters but by those who control AI skillfully.

  • Gp Cpt TP Srivastava (Retd) is an ex-NDA who flew MiG-21 and 29. He is a qualified flying instructor. He commanded the MiG-21 squadron. He is a directing staff at DSSC Wellington and chief instructor at the College of Air Warfare. VIEWS PERSONAL OF THE AUTHOR
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