GCHQ is taking on Russian fake news bots with plans to use artificial intelligence (AI) to find troll farms, it has been announced.
Britain’s cyber spy agency has outlined how it protects the country against state-backed disinformation campaigns and other cyber attacks using AI.
Shadowy organisations such as Russia’s Internet Research Agency, the St Petersburg-based troll farm indicted in the US for meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, will come under increased scrutiny.
In a paper released today titled Ethics of AI: Pioneering a New National Security, GCHQ has explained how it counters malign foreign cyber attacks, whilst adhering to an “ethical framework for using AI in operations”.
Jeremy Fleming, the GCHQ Director, said AI “allows our brilliant analysts to manage vast volumes of complex data and improves decision-making in the face of increasingly complex threats – from protecting children to improving cyber security.
“While this unprecedented technological evolution comes with great opportunity, it also poses significant ethical challenges for all of society, including GCHQ.
“Today we are setting out our plan and commitment to the ethical use of AI in our mission. I hope it will inspire further thinking at home and abroad about how we can ensure fairness, transparency and accountability to underpin the use of AI.”
The paper describes how hostile states can use AI to mount disinformation attacks by automating the production of fake news and other content to undermine public debate.
This could include the production of “deepfake” videos with fictional but very convincing content. False audio material designed to mislead can also be produced with AI.
“A growing number of states are using AI-enabled tools and techniques to pursue political ends by spreading disinformation to shape public perceptions and undermine trust,” the paper states.
GCHQ says it uses AI to assist in tackling this threat by fact checking information with trusted sources, detecting when images and videos have been altered and blocking botnets – networks of private computers infected with malicious software and controlled as a group without the owners’ knowledge, that are used to send spam and other malicious material.
So-called troll farms, organisations making deliberately offensive or provocative online posts to cause conflict or manipulate public opinion, are being targeted by GCHQ.
The report says AI will help identify such places “so that online operations could be mounted to counteract these malicious accounts”.
Russia has, in recent years, made a number of attempts “to disrupt our own and our allies’ way of life”, and GCHQ also responded to the release of the online WannaCry attack by North Korean cyber actors, the report says.