Support our Nation today - please donate here
Opinion

Developments in technology posing ‘danger to democracy’

13 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Facebook logo. Photo Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Mike HedgesMS for Swansea East

Recent developments in technology are posing a serious threat to democracy.

Facebook cloning is a scam where someone creates a fake copy of your profile using your public information and profile picture.

The clone account may use the same name or a similar one to yours and may send friend requests to your friend. The goal of the scam is to trick your friends or family into giving up their personal information or money.

When a cloned account is created, I know from personal experience how difficult it is to get Meta to take it down. Of course, I only know about the scam that affected me because the scammer contacted my friends many of whom let me know.

If it had been set up and not contacted my friends then I would not have known, there may be created today an account using a variation of my name with my photograph saying things I would never say on social media.

Politically it can be used to create posts that damage someone’s credibility by posting extremist material. If an account is created, then the first you may hear of it is when a complaint is made.

Hack

We all aware of people who hack accounts which is why we have two stage authentication including face recognition. To stay safe use unique passwords for every account, two-factor authentication, avoid public Wi-Fi and update and patch your software regularly.

Having been hacked twice, once by leaving my account open and once when I did not use a complex password, I am aware what can be done.

It was often said, it is true, I have seen it with my own eyes. Now you can remove a person from a picture using readily available software.

There are all in one artificial intelligence powered photo editors which remove an object or person from a photograph and reconstructs the background for a flawless finish. Using photoshop you can add people to an image, change the way they look or move them around the picture. No one will be able to tell that it is not the authentic picture.

AI

This can show people at rallies or meetings where they were not present. The worrying point of this is that an A level computer student could do it.

More worryingly Microsoft researchers have announced a new text-to-speech AI model called VALL-E that can closely simulate a person’s voice when given a three-second audio sample.

Once it learns a specific voice, VALL-E can synthesize audio of that person saying anything and does it in a way that attempts to preserve the speaker’s emotional tone. For politicians there are hours of their speeches readily available.

Its creators speculate that VALL-E could be used for high-quality text-to-speech applications, speech editing where a recording of a person could be edited and changed from a text transcript making them say something they originally didn’t, and audio content creation when combined with other generative AI models like GPT-3.

It analyses how a person sounds, breaks that information into discrete components, and uses training data to match what it ‘knows’ about how that voice would sound if it spoke other phrases outside of the sample.

In addition to preserving a speaker’s vocal timbre and emotional tone, VALL-E can also imitate the ‘acoustic environment’ of the sample audio. For example, if the sample came from a telephone call it will sound like a telephone call.

At least one politician has been moved around a screenshot to implicate them. We have seen examples of people saying they have not met someone only for a photograph of them with the person to appear. When they say it is fake how many people believe them.

Fake speeches

Scarlett Johansson has said she was ‘shocked’ and ‘angered’ after OpenAI allegedly recreated her voice without her consent for a new ChatGPT system after she refused to voice it.

Whilst this annoying for the Scarlett Johanson just think how a politician would feel if their voice was used to say something they had never said and disagreed with.

The general election has probably come too early for the use of large-scale fake speeches, but picture editing has already been used and also cloned Facebook accounts. I ask people to check how many fake accounts using a variation of their name with their picture there are.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris Jones
Chris Jones
1 month ago

Mike Hedges is very worried about social media and AI – he and the rest of us should be. As a book publisher in Cymru, we are concerned, not just about the increasingly obvious threats to democracy (such as it is), but to the real threat to authors and writers from plagiarism, copyright theft, voice cloning and AI bot infiltrations. If anyone is interested (and you should be), our writer Y Clochydd has been collating many important articles on this topic.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.