Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI
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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

Imran Khan: “The Poster Boy for Populism"
Imran Khan: “The Poster Boy for Populism" | Global Stage

Imran Khan: “The Poster Boy for Populism"

Weeks after a chaotic general election, Pakistan’s political parties still struggle to form a coalition to move the country forward. GZERO’s Tony Maciulis sat down with Pakistan’s former Foreign Minister Hina Khar at the Munich Security Conference for her take on how the nation’s imprisoned ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan maintains a hold over supporters and remains a powerful political force.

Independent candidates mostly aligned with Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), won the most votes on February 8, though they fell short of a majority, setting off a power struggle between Khan and his political rival, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Comparing Khan to former US President Donald Trump and India’s leader Narendra Modi, Khar said, “He really represents what populist leaders are all about. He’s able to get everybody to rally around what all is wrong and the great injustices. However, when he comes to power, he doesn’t have any to plan to sort it out.”

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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.

Populism and partition? Europe's bleak forecast for the year ahead
Populism and partition? Europe's bleak forecast for the year ahead | Mujtaba Rahman | Global Stage

Populism and partition? Europe's bleak forecast for the year ahead

GZERO’s Tony Maciulis joins Mujtaba Rahman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director for Europe, on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss the pressing political and economic situation in Europe. Rahman looks ahead to the EU Parliament's upcoming elections, highlighting concerns over populist party performance. “[Populists] will certainly be better represented” Rahman tells Maciulis, “but that being said, the impacts on policy will be marginal at best.”

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At the Munich Security Conference, Trump isn't the only elephant in the room
At the Munich Security Conference, Trump isn't the only elephant in the room

At the Munich Security Conference, Trump isn't the only elephant in the room

The Munich Security Conference (MSC) is all about providing a space to address the elephant in the room and fostering discussion on that one big topic people would rather avoid, says Benedikt Franke, the forum’s vice-chairman and CEO. But there’s more than just one elephant this year — a herd.

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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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Understand AI first, then regulate, urges UAE AI minister Omar Sultan al Olama
Understand AI first, then regulate - UAE tech minister | Global Stage

Understand AI first, then regulate, urges UAE AI minister Omar Sultan al Olama

The human race is facing three big impending challenges: artificial intelligence, climate change, and pandemics, says the UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Omar Sultan al Olama.

Speaking in a GZERO Global Stage discussion from the 2024 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Minister al Olama said he finds himself at the center of a technology crossing borders. He reminds us that AI can't be regulated by each country in silos. International collaboration is key,but before that, government officials need to get educated on AI. “There are, unfortunately certain players that are approaching this with ignorance,” he says.

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