Fianna Fáil senators warn over ‘deepfake’ threat to elections

Fianna Fáil Senators Warn Over ‘Deepfake’ Threat To Elections
The politicians called for a national awareness campaign on AI and technological change. Photo: PA Images
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Cillian Sherlock, PA

Fianna Fáil politicians have warned of the threat of deepfakes as they called for the Electoral Commission to create a strategy to tackle the misuse of artificial intelligence in political campaigning.

Deepfakes are digitally manipulated images, video and audio that are designed to create fake material featuring the likeness of an individual, often to misrepresent their views or speech.


Senator Malcolm Byrne will table the motion which also calls for a national awareness campaign on AI and technological change.

Mr Byrne, who is the party spokesman on higher education, innovation and science, said while AI has “plenty of positives”, the technology also brings challenges.



“One of our biggest concerns is around the potential impact of the misuse of AI through misinformation, disinformation, and particularly deepfakes on elections and referenda.”

He said deepfakes had been used in recent elections in Slovakia and Argentina.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Byrne further hypothesised that a deepfake of an Irish political leader saying something controversial could emerge during upcoming elections.


“The difficulty is once a video comes out and they’re sufficiently believable, it can be shared on social media thousands of times, and even when the denial is then published, you will still have people who will say: ‘Oh well, look, you know, this wasn’t a deepfake, this was really what he or she actually believed’.

“And you can imagine, you know, the crucial days before an election or indeed in a referendum, how something like that could have an impact.”

Mr Byrne accepted that disinformation and misinformation had been factors in previous elections but said deepfakes had “turbocharged” the threat.

The Government has established an AI Advisory Council, appointed an AI Ambassador and plans to establish an AI cluster to support enterprise development in the sector.


“We also believe within the Oireachtas there is a need to set up a special committee to look at artificial intelligence and explore its impacts right across all areas of society.”

He said the education system also needs to change due to opportunities that AI present.

Mr Byrne added: “The most important piece of legislation that the European Union will enact this decade is the AI Act and it’s critical, we believe, that that takes a people-centred approach, that it focuses on a risk-based approach that minimises the risk, that it places serious obligations on the tech companies to ensure that they assess the potential risks of rolling out AI in any area.”

Senator Lisa Chambers said technology companies have a responsibility to protect users from the misuse of AI.


“Yes, we intend to regulate that sector and yes, we intend to legislate and to ensure that there’s protections. They don’t need to wait for that to do the right thing. There is a moral and an ethical responsibility on the part of social media companies to protect their users and to ensure that they don’t infringe on the integrity of our electoral process.

“They have tools to do that. They don’t need to wait for the regulation.”

Mr Byrne, who said he did not think Fianna Fáil had used generative AI to create public-facing material, said his party would pledge not to “misuse” the technology.

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