We live in the era of Generative AI or “GenAI,” with tools like ChatGPT, MidJourney, and Copilot all spearheading the new age of AI-generated content. These tools have taken nearly industry by storm with their ability to create information that is almost impossible to distinguish from human-generated content. Users can generate stunning images, articles, code, and even videos from a few text-based prompts. Despite the massive potential this technology holds and its promise to change how we work, one significant risk with these tools is becoming more and more prominent: misinformation.
Due to their realistic content, AI-generated images and text can easily be used to mislead the masses and cause confusion if they are taken as factual without any verification. This article reviews this risk and the checks and balances that can be implemented.
How Generative AI can spread Misinformation
Misinformation existed before the GenAI boom, with numerous reports of bots spreading fake information on Twitter and other social media platforms during the 2016 presidential election. However, GenAI allows this misinformation to gain much more credibility due to how realistic its contents look. Imagine a social media post showing a politician committing a corrupt act that is shared on social media and spreads like wildfire gaining momentum via tweets, shares, likes, etc. Unfortunately, the images in the post are all fake and created by GenAI. While the truth might be revealed later on, it would be too late to undo the damage to the person’s reputation.
We have already seen examples of Midjourney images of the Pope wearing a white puffy jacket and Donald Trump getting arrested going viral on social media, with much of the public thinking they are the real thing. Far from being a harmless prank, this could be misused to spread discord amongst the public, leading to riots and destruction of public property. Cybercriminals could weaponize such tools to spread misinformation against a company or an individual for a fee, making it difficult for the general public to distinguish real news from the taken one.
How to protect against GenAI misinformation
The fight against GenAI misinformation needs to occur at two levels; one at the technical level and one at the human level. AI-generated content has telltale signs that can be used to discern it from natural images and text. For example, text from GenAI can be quite detailed, with phrases seeming slightly off despite having no grammatical issues. Similarly, images from tools like MidJourney might contain shadows and quirks in the eyes and fingers that can give away their origins. AI detection tools are also gaining prominence that performs checks to detect signs of GenAI via these telltale signs within images, text, and syntax.
Users must also be skeptical about what they read on social media and other platforms and practice a healthy amount of critical thinking before accepting anything they read. By practicing vigilance, they can prevent the spread of misinformation from being started in the first place. It is every user’s responsibility to verify the authenticity of the information and exercise critical thinking. If a social media post or news article seems too sensational to be accurate, it would be better to verify it from multiple sources before sharing it further. A few simple minutes spent verifying information before spreading it can potentially stop misinformation from being spread to thousands of users further.
The burden of combating misinformation spread via GenAI does not just fall on the user but also on the companies involved in creating GenAI products. Companies involved in developing these products must exercise transparency and ethics when it comes to creating these systems. Regulations are already under development that will govern how AI systems are trained and what guardrails must be implemented to restrict the spread of malicious content. However, these will take time, and companies must take the first step themselves for a safe AI-based future.
The way forward
GenAII has opened Pandora’s box, which will not be closed anytime soon. Cybercriminals and scammers will be looking at ways to misuse the capabilities of these systems to spread misinformation amongst the masses. GenAI could even become a tool during cyber warfare to spread propaganda amongst the public to sow discord and make them lose trust in their leadership.
While tools are being launched to detect and curb the spread of misinformation using GenAI, it is a long and challenging road ahead. The solution is not a wholesale ban on AI systems but a responsible, ethical development of these systems and a robust user awareness of the risks involved. By creating healthy skepticism amongst the public on information that might be AI-generated in nature, along with strong technical controls that can detect this type of data, we can move towards an AI-driven future with confidence.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does Generative AI contribute to the spread of misinformation?
Generative AI, with its ability to produce highly realistic content, poses a risk as AI-generated images and text can be mistaken for genuine. This can lead to disseminating fake news, false narratives, and deceptive social media posts, potentially damaging reputations and causing public unrest.
How can we protect against GenAI misinformation?
Protection against GenAI misinformation involves two approaches. Firstly, technical measures such as AI detection tools can help identify telltale signs of AI-generated content, including subtle text or visual elements irregularities. Secondly, users must exercise critical thinking, verifying information from multiple sources before accepting and sharing it.
What responsibility do users have in combating misinformation?
Users play a crucial role in preventing the spread of misinformation. By practicing skepticism, fact-checking, and engaging in critical thinking, individuals can minimize the inadvertent propagation of false information. Users should verify the authenticity of content before sharing it on social media or other platforms.
What role do companies play in addressing GenAI misinformation?
Companies involved in developing GenAI products are responsible for prioritizing transparency and ethics. They should implement safeguards and guardrails to restrict the spread of malicious content. Collaborating with regulators and supporting the development of ethical AI practices will contribute to a safer AI-driven future.