Irish minister warns AI could fuel the spread of misinformation in the wake of elections

Minister Darragh O’Brien has asked the newly established Electoral Commission to educate citizens about the dangers of unregulated AI and misinformation to safeguard democracy.

The Irish Government is concerned about the potential impact of AI on the spread of disinformation during elections, said Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien. Ireland’s next election will be before February 2025.

O’Brien, who also oversees electoral reform, expressed his concerns to the Electoral Commission, established in February 2023 after Ireland’s Electoral Reform Act 2022. The Act included provisions for ensuring election transparency, especially focusing on online political advertising and the digitalisation of electoral registration, highlighting Ireland’s concern for election legitimacy amid new technological developments.

The minister emphasised that one of the primary objectives of the Electoral Commission is to address disinformation and raise public awareness regarding the widespread dissemination of fake news or conspiracy theories. O’Brien has asked the Commission to author a document explaining the dangers of unregulated AI to citizens in order to avoid what he called ‘democracy by algorithm diktat’.

Experts have warned that cheap, powerful AI tools could allow anyone to create fake images, videos, and audio that are realistic enough to fool voters and sway an election. As was mentioned by O’Brien, ‘in the hands of bad faith political parties or nefarious activists AI could be weaponised against the pillars of our democracy’. He also quoted the recent AI-generated attack ad by the Republican National Committee as a prime example of how fast these technologies have evolved.

Ireland has been one of the leading countries when it comes to AI regulation policy, stressing the importance of regulating generative AI, appointing experts to tackle the issue, and creating large-scale frameworks for AI management (2021 National Artificial Intelligence Strategy).