McAfee Joins Tech Accord to Combat Use of AI in 2024 Elections

This year marks the world’s biggest election year yet.

An estimated four billion voters will head to the polls across more than 60 national elections worldwide in 2024 — all at a time when artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make history of its own. Without question, the harmful use of AI will play a role in election interference worldwide.

In fact, it already has.

In January, thousands of U.S. voters in New Hampshire received an AI robocall that impersonated President Joe Biden, urging them not to vote in the primary. In the UK, more than 100 deepfake social media ads impersonated Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on the Meta platform last December[i]. Similarly, the 2023 parliamentary elections in Slovakia spawned deepfake audio clips that featured false proposals for rigging votes and raising the price of beer[ii].

We can’t put it more plainly. The harmful use of AI has the potential to influence an election.

The rise of AI in major elections.

In just over a year, AI tools have rapidly evolved, offering a wealth of benefits. It analyzes health data on massive scales, which promotes better healthcare outcomes. It helps supermarkets bring the freshest produce to the aisles by streamlining the supply chain. And it does plenty of helpful everyday things too, like recommending movies and shows in our streaming queues based on what we like.

Yet as with practically any technology, whether AI helps or harms is up to the person using it. And plenty of bad actors have chosen to use it for harm. Scammers have used it to dupe people with convincing “deepfakes” that impersonate everyone from Taylor Swift to members of their own family with phony audio, video, and photos created by AI. Further, AI has also helped scammers spin up phishing emails and texts that look achingly legit, all on a massive scale thanks to AI’s ease of use.

Now, consider how those same deepfakes and scams might influence an election year. We have no doubt, the examples cited above are only the start.

Our pledge this election year.

Within this climate, we’ve pledged to help prevent deceptive AI content from interfering with this year’s global elections as part of the “Tech Accord to Combat Deceptive Use of AI in 2024 Elections.” We join leading tech companies such as Adobe, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, and TikTok to play our part in protecting elections and the electoral process.

Collectively, we’ll bring our respective powers to combat deepfakes and other harmful uses of AI. That includes digital content such as AI-generated audio, video, and images that deceptively fake or alter the appearance, voice, or actions of political candidates, election officials, and other figures in democratic elections. Likewise, it further covers content that provides false info about when, where, and how people can cast their vote.

A set of seven principles guide the way for this accord, with each signatory of the pledge lending their strengths to the cause:

Even before joining the accord, we’ve played a strong role in the counts of Detection, Public Awareness, and Resilience. The accord only bolsters our efforts by aligning them with others. To mention a few of our efforts to date:

  • Earlier this year, we announced our Project Mockingbird — a new detection technology that can help spot AI-cloned audio in messages and videos. (You can see it in action here in our blog on the Taylor Swift deepfake scam) From there, you can expect to see similar detection technologies from us that cover all manner of content, such as video, photos, and text.
  • We’ve created McAfee Scam Protection, an AI-powered feature that puts a stop to scams before you click or tap a risky link. It detects suspicious links and sends you an alert if one crops up in texts, emails, or social media — all important when scammers use election cycles to siphon money from victims with politically themed phishing sites.
  • And as always, we pour plenty of effort into awareness, here in our blogs, along with our research reports and guides. When it comes to combatting the harmful use of AI, technology provides part of the solution — the other part is people. With an understanding of how bad actors use AI, what that looks like, and a healthy dose of internet street smarts, people can protect themselves even better from scams and flat-out disinformation.

The AI tech accords — an important first step of many

In all, we see the tech accord as one important step that tech and media companies can take to keep people safe from harmful AI-generated content. Now in this election year. And moving forward as AI continues to shape and reshape what we see and hear online.

Yet beyond this accord and the companies that have signed on remains an important point: the accord represents just one step in preserving the integrity of elections in the age of AI. As tech companies, we can, and will, do our part to prevent harmful AI from influencing elections. However, fair elections remain a product of nations and their people. With that, the rule of law comes unmistakably into play.

Legislation and regulations that curb the harmful use of AI and that levy penalties on its creators will provide another vital step in the broader solution. One example: we’ve seen how the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recently made AI robocalls illegal. With its ruling, the FCC gives State Attorney Generals across the country new tools to go after the bad actors behind nefarious robocalls[iii]. And that’s very much a step in the right direction.

Protecting people from the ill use of AI calls for commitment from all corners. Globally, we face a challenge tremendously imposing in nature. Yet not insurmountable. Collectively, we can keep people safer. Text from the accord we co-signed puts it well, “The protection of electoral integrity and public trust is a shared responsibility and a common good that transcends partisan interests and national borders.”

We’re proud to say that we’ll contribute to that goal with everything we can bring to bear.

[i] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2024/jan/12/deepfake-video-adverts-sunak-facebook-alarm-ai-risk-election

[ii] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-09-29/trolls-in-slovakian-election-tap-ai-deepfakes-to-spread-disinfo

[iii] https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-400393A1.pdf

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