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Tech accord on AI & elections will help manage the ‘new reality,’ says Microsoft’s Brad Smith
Tech accord on AI & elections will help manage the ‘new reality' | Brad Smith | Global Stage

Tech accord on AI & elections will help manage the ‘new reality,’ says Microsoft’s Brad Smith

At the Munich Security Conference, leading tech companies unveiled a new accord that committed them to combating AI-generated content that could disrupt elections.

During a Global Stage panel on the sidelines of this year’s conference, Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith said the accord would not completely solve the problem of deceptive AI content but would help “manage this new reality in a way that will make a difference and really serve all of the elections… between now and the end of the year.”

As Smith explains, the accord is designed to bring the tech industry together to preserve the “authenticity of content,” including via the creation of content credentials. The industry will also work to detect deepfakes and provide candidates with a mechanism to report them, says Smith, while also taking steps to “promote transparency and education.”

The conversation was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

Watch the full conversation here: How to protect elections in the age of AI

Deepfakes are ‘fraud,’ says Microsoft's Brad Smith
Deepfakes are ‘fraud,’ says Microsoft CEO Brad Smith | Global Stage

Deepfakes are ‘fraud,’ says Microsoft's Brad Smith

The rapid rise of AI has presented a wide array of challenges, particularly in terms of finding a balance between protecting the right to free expression and safeguarding democracy from the corrosive effects of misinformation.

But Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith says freedom of expression does not apply to deepfakes — fake images or videos created via AI, which can involve using someone else’s face and/or voice without their permission. During a Global Stage panel on AI and elections at the Munich Security Conference, Smith unequivocally decried deepfakes as a form of “fraud.”

“The right to free expression gives me the right to stand up and say what is on my mind,” says Smith, adding, “I do not have the right to steal and use your voice. Your voice belongs to you and you alone… Let's give people the right to say what they think. Let's not steal their voice and put words in their mouth.”

The conversation was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

Watch the full conversation here: How to protect elections in the age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI
VOD - Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI

Half of the world’s population will have the chance to head to the polls this year in dozens of critical elections worldwide. These votes, which will shape policy and democracy for years to come, come amid light-speed development in artificial intelligence. As Eurasia Group noted in its 2024 Top Risk entitled “Ungoverned AI,” generative AI could be used by domestic and foreign actors – we’re looking at you, Russia – to impact campaigns and undermine trust in democracy.

To meet the moment, GZERO Media, on the ground at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, held a Global Stage discussion on Feb. 17 entitled “Protecting Elections in the Age of AI.” We spoke with Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Fiona Hill, senior fellow for the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings; Eva Maydell, an EU parliamentarian and a lead negotiator of the EU Chips Act and Artificial Intelligence Act; Kersti Kaljulaid, the former president of Estonia; with European correspondent Maria Tadeo moderating. The program also featured interviews with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, and Benedikt Franke, CEO and vice-chair of the Munich Security Conference. These thought leaders and experts discussed the implications of the rapid rise of AI amid this historic election year.

The group started by delving into what Bremmer has referred to as the “Voldemort” of years surrounding elections, to look at how election interference and disinformation have evolved since 2016.

“This is the year that people have been very concerned about, but have kind of hoped that they could push off. It's not just because there are elections all over the world and trust in institutions is deteriorating, it's also because the most powerful country in the world, and it's not becoming less powerful, is also one of the most politically dysfunctional,” says Bremmer, referring to the US.

The 2024 US presidential election “is maximally distrust-laden,” says Bremmer, adding that it’s “really hard to have a free and fair election in the US that all of its population” believes is legitimate.

And the worry is that AI could complicate the landscape even further.

Hill agreed that there’s cause for concern but underscored that people should not “panic” to a point where they’re “paralyzed” and “not taking action.”

“Panic is not an option given the stakes,” says Hill, adding, “There are negative aspects of all of this, but there's also the kind of question that we have to grapple with is how when legitimate competitors or opposition movements that otherwise beleaguered decide to use AI tools, that then also has an impact.”

There’s no doubt that AI can be used for nefarious purposes. Deepfakes can fool even the most discerning eye. Disinformation has already been rampant across the internet in recent election cycles and helped sow major divisions in many countries well before AI tools — far more sophisticated than your average meme — were widely available.

“With new tools and products that use generative AI, including from a company like ours, somebody can create a very realistic video, audio, or image. Just think about the different ways it can be used. Somebody can use it and they can make a video of themself, and they can make clear in the video that this is AI generated. That is one way a political candidate, even one who is in prison can speak,” says Smith, alluding to ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent use of AI from behind bars.

Along these lines, there are many serious, valid concerns about the impact AI can have on elections and democracy more generally — particularly at a time when people are exhibiting rising levels of distrust in key institutions.

“It's very important to acknowledge a lot of the important developments that AI and emerging tech can bring to support our economic development,” says Maydell, adding, “but in the same time, especially this year, we need to be very sober about some of those threats that are in a way threatening the very fabric of our democratic societies.

As Maydell noted, this evolving new technology can be harnessed for good and bad. Can AI be used as a tool to protect candidates and the integrity of the electoral process?

A number of major tech companies, including Microsoft, signed an accord at the Munich Security Conference on Friday to help thwart and combat AI-related election interference.

“It's all about trying to put ourselves in a position, not to solve this problem completely, I don't think that's possible, but to manage this new reality in a way that will make a difference,” says Smith. The Microsoft president says the accord brings the tech sector together to preserve the authenticity of content, including by working to detect deepfakes and providing candidates with a mechanism to report any that are created about them.

“We'll work together to promote transparency and public education. This clearly is going to require a lot of work with civil society, with others around the world to help the public be ready,” says Smith.

But is enough being done?

“It's good that both politicians and the companies and society as a whole now has a better understanding where this is all leading us and we are collectively taking actions,” says Kaljulaid, but this is just a “first step” and “next steps need to follow.”

A balance will need to be found between legislating the challenges presented by AI and giving tech companies space to collaborate, innovate and address problems on their own.

“Democracy is always in jeopardy. Every generation has to answer the call to defend it,” says Smith, adding, “Now it's our turn. It's our turn as a generation of people to say that technology always changes, but democracy is a value that we hold timeless. So let's do what it takes to defend it, to preserve and promote it.”

The livestream was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, and technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

Live premiere today at 12 pm ET: Can we use AI to protect elections?

Today at 12 pm ET/9 am PT/6 pm CET, watch the live premiere of our Global Stage discussion at the Munich Security Conference, "Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI." 2024 is truly the “Year of Elections” with more than 75 nations heading to the polls, affecting roughly half the world’s population. But an ongoing decline of trust in institutions plus an explosion of AI tools and deep fake technologies could create a dangerous environment. Our panel will examine how AI can also be a way to protect consumers and candidates, helping to shore up the integrity of the electoral process. Can AI be used to quickly flag and even eliminate online lies and misinformation?

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AI for all: Leave no one behind, says Microsoft's Brad Smith
AI for all: Leave no one behind, says Microsoft's Brad Smith | Global Stage

AI for all: Leave no one behind, says Microsoft's Brad Smith

Artificial intelligence could level the playing field for individuals across an array of disciplines...if people have access to it. Microsoft’s Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, points out that access to AI tech remains a privilege that is still unavailable to hundreds of millions around the world.

Speaking in a GZERO Global Stage discussion from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith points out that while the conversation about AI seems advanced in Davos, a lot of people in the Global South don't yet have access to AI, let alone basic needs like electricity, access to electronic devices, and internet connectivity.

“In a sense, we do the Global South a tremendous disservice if we talk about AI all the time as the next thing,” he said. First, "close the electricity divide, the broadband connectivity divide, the device divide, and then you can close the AI divide on top of it."

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How is the world tackling AI, Davos' hottest topic?
FULL VOD Global Stage WEF 2024

How is the world tackling AI, Davos' hottest topic?

It’s the big topic at Davos: What the heck are we going to do about artificial intelligence? Governments just can’t seem to keep up with the pace of this ever-evolving technology—but with dozens of elections scheduled for 2024, the world has no time to lose.

GZERO and Microsoft brought together folks who are giving the subject a great deal of thought for a Global Stage event on the ground in Switzerland, including Microsoft’s Brad Smith, EU Member of Parliament Eva Maydell, the UAE’s AI Minister Omar Sultan al Olama, the UN Secretary’s special technology envoy Amandeep Singh Gill, and GZERO Founder & President Ian Bremmer, moderated by CNN’s Bianna Golodryga.

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Global Stage at Davos 2024: live premiere tomorrow at 11 am ET

Join Microsoft and GZERO Media for the premiere of Making AI Work for the World tomorrow, January 18 at 11 am ET/8 am PT/5 pm CET, recorded live at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this morning.

Bianna Golodryga, Anchor & Senior Global Affairs Analyst at CNN, moderated the Global Stage discussion about the rapid development of AI technologies and the race to regulate them with Brad Smith, Vice Chair & President, Microsoft; Ian Bremmer, President & Co-founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media; Eva Maydell, Member of European Parliament, Bulgarian politician, Speaker for the EU Special Committee on Artificial Intelligence; Amandeep Singh Gill, UN Tech Envoy; and Omar Sultan al Olama, UAE Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.

Watch the live premiere at gzeromedia.com/globalstage.

Add this event to your calendar:

Watch our Davos event: Making AI Work for the World

Can AI truly benefit all? In our Global Stage event at the World Economic Forum in Davos, our expert panel examines the rapid development of AI technologies, the race to regulate them, and how to ensure the two competing forces of innovation and regulation lead to greater access, safety, and opportunity around the world. Watch the discussion today, January 18 at 11 am ET/8 am PT/5 pm CET at gzeromedia.com/globalstage.

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