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PAM contributes to CPA conference on Artificial intelligence, Disinformation and Parliament

On 4 - 6 December 2023, the Parliamentary Assembly of Mediterranean (PAM) participated in the online conference on the “2023 4IR - Artificial intelligence, Disinformation and Parliament: Ensuring the Integrity of our Digital Democracy”, organized by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Assembly (CPA). PAM’s representative, Hon. Ray Abela, Malta, PAM’s Rapporteur on Digitalization, intervened during the Session dedicated to “Synthetic Media and Parliamentarian - Understanding the Threats as Public Figures”.


The event gathered parliamentarians from the Commonwealth and experts in the field of AI and Digitalization from the universities of Stanford, Leeds, Dalhousie, from the Alan Tourin Institute, the London School of Economics, the International Center for Studies of Radicalisation (ICSR), as well as representatives from Adobe and other non-for-profit organizations.


While AI is generating an estimated of USD 4-7 trillion in the global economy annually, disinformation and misinformation have been used regularly by totalitarian regimes, with substantial resources for some time, and have also become used by  violent and extremist groups, and single individuals.


The webinar addressed AI malicious use in recent elections in the UK, Slovakia, Türkiye and Nigeria, and in conflicts, such as the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the war between Israel/Hamas in Gaza. Speakers agreed on the need for a balanced regulatory approach that avoids impinging on free speech. They highlighted the dual responsibility of developers and governments in collaborating, also with the public, to enact new laws and create a framework to preventing AI misuse, in particular during political campaigns, against politicians (in particular female politicians, who are increasingly targeted with attacks of sexual nature). They called on politicians to disclose the usage of AI and for new legal initiatives, such as the creation of the crime of public offence for false statements.


Some delegates also called for an international Convention to establish standards for AI use based on the principles of truth, safety, accountability, transparency, privacy and responsibility. They also shared the existence of the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA) and the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI), as well as the need for digital forensics and cryptographic signatures to establish provenance of content. The limited financial capability of the African region to deal with this new reality was also exposed. If digital literacy is key, nowadays verifying the authenticity of content was crucial.


In his presentation, Hon. Abela described how synthetic media, also known as “deepfakes”, poses a significant threat to parliamentarians and public figures. These rapidly evolving technologies use artificial intelligence to manipulate or generate audio, video, and other content that can be indistinguishable from reality. It can be used in misinformation campaigns, for political manipulation and to erode public trust in the political process and public institutions. Moreover, it can maliciously influence political campaigns, and voters.


Hon. Abela suggested specific strategies to address this new threat, including raising public awareness, promoting robust mechanisms to distinguish between genuine and manipulated media. Investing in strong cybersecurity measures is imperative for protecting personal information and digital identities, with parliamentarians bearing a significant responsibility in this regard.


Proactive communication is also key. Public figures should be prepared to address deepfake incidents directly and emphasize the importance of content verification. Furthermore, supporting the development of technology solutions, such as deepfake detection tools, and advocating for international cooperation among governmental bodies, law enforcement, and relevant stakeholders are crucial steps to combat the global challenges posed by synthetic media. This collaborative approach aims to develop robust strategies and international agreements, ensuring the integrity of public information while addressing potential threats from complicit states.


PAM encourages continued dialogue and collaboration among policymakers, governments, technology experts, private sector and civil society to develop comprehensive strategies, policies and international legal frameworks that uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, countermeasures, prevention and control, all preserving democratic governance.//