Creating and sharing misleading or manipulated content could become illegal under proposals by Sarah Owen, Labour MP for Luton North, in a move to “protect integrity and trust in our democratic process”.

Campaigning Labour MP Sarah Owen wants to tackle election misinformation generated by AI
Campaigning Labour MP Sarah Owen wants to tackle election misinformation generated by AI

Concerns have been raised this week after a recording alleging to be of a Labour campaigner in Birmingham’s local elections transpired to be faked. A teacher who was supporting her friend and council candidate Qasim Mughal was bombarded with abuse due the recording being manipulated to imply racist language, which was inaccurate.

The Labour Party condemned the altered recording, stating that “manipulated digital asserts pose a threat to the community cohesion we work hard to foster, as well as to the integrity of the democratic process”. An examination by independent technology analysts determined it was fake.

Owen commented: “this latest example of the use of Artificial Intelligence to fake the audio of a video has caused much distress in communities across the country, and completely misled people in a way that is dangerous for our democracy.

“We must take stronger action to stop the interference in political campaigning, including by making the creation and distribution of deepfakes a criminal offence.”

The proposal also aims to protect potential victims of malicious deepfakes, including the female teacher in Birmingham. It is not currently a crime to create or distribute misleading or manipulated content for the purpose of influencing how people vote.

Owen’s amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill, NC43, will create a specific offence of sharing, distributing or creating manipulated content with the intention to mislead or misrepresent another person’s views, or to influence the voting intention of another person.

Under these proposals, creating such content will be punishable by up to 2 years in prison.

Georgie Laming, Director of Campaigns and Communications at HOPE not hate said,

“AI manipulated content misleads the public, erodes trust in our democratic institutions and distorts and disrupts public debate.

Last year, 3 fake videos of Sadiq Khan were circulated within far right and football hooligan groups ahead of Armistice Day which directly contributed to violent scenes around the Cenotaph.

Without the power to prosecute, those seeking to further divide communities can weaponise AI and deep fakes to create inflammatory content that adds fuel to the fire.”

The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) also lent their support to the amendment, saying:

“CCDH research has shown how leading AI technologies can be used to create election disinformation with false claims about political candidates or election processes.

“This amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill is vital to secure electoral processes before upcoming elections, while protecting the integrity of democratic debate and political speech”

Sarah Owen, Member of Parliament for Luton North said:

“It could not be more important that all our communities, in Luton North and across the country, have trust in our democratic processes. Manipulated content undermines this trust and leaves space for exploitation and division.

“The government has the chance to lead the way on AI regulation and ensure that no hostile state or actor can use AI to mislead and divide – I hope they will support my amendment.”

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