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Is AI set to destroy trust in elections? Tackling misinformation in politics & Parliament, with top fact checker Full Fact's Chris Morris - Parliament Matters podcast, Episode 32

30 Apr 2024
©Adobe Stock/Skorzewiak
©Adobe Stock/Skorzewiak

The emerging role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in shaping political discourse is a potential game changer. It has the capacity to fabricate fake interviews and manipulate images, all of which could mislead voters and disrupt the democratic process. But could it affect the results of our elections? We talk to Chris Morris, the head of factchecking organisation, Full Fact, about the threats posed by these technologies, the potential scale of misinformation in politics, and the measures politicians and political parties need to take to counteract them.

With public trust in politicians at a low ebb we discuss how AI-generated misinformation could further erode confidence in electoral integrity and democratic values and the responsibility on political parties to therefore use AI ethically.

Chris Morris stresses the importance of preparing in advance for scenarios where AI could influence election outcomes, including at the individual constituency level. He suggests looking to models like that used in Canada for handling major information incidents to ensure clarity and trust in how election-related misinformation is addressed. Full Fact has called for similar proactive measures to be discussed and implemented in the UK

Following a Full Fact campaign and a House of Commons Procedure Committee inquiry, we also delve into the recent parliamentary rule changes that extend to all MPs a right that was previously reserved for Ministers – the right to rectify any inaccurate statements in Hansard, the official record of parliamentary proceedings. But should MPs face sanctions, perhaps even a criminal offence for lying in Parliament, if they refuse to correct inaccuracies?

Full Fact frequently draws attention to inaccurate claims made by MP, but not all MPs are willing to correct the record. So, what reason do these MPs give for their unwillingness to retract inaccurate statements?

And with the general election potentially just weeks away, we discuss how Full Fact is gearing up organisationally for the campaign and its role in combating misinformation. We discuss the importance of media literacy, and whether the focus of factcheckers should be on ‘pre-bunking’ misinformation – putting accurate information out in the public sphere first – rather than on ‘de-bunking’ false claims once they are made and the falsehoods have spread.

  • What will be the most dangerous AI-related problems we face at the general election?

  • Could AI impact the result of an election?

  • What do political parties need to do to ensure ethical behaviour during the election campaign?

  • What changes have been introduced to enable MPs to correct the Hansard record?

  • Why do MPs so often fail to retract or correct false information and claims?

Parliament Matters is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust

Parliament Matters is supported by a grant from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a Quaker trust which engages in philanthropy and supports work on democratic accountability.

©Full Fact

Chris Morris is the Chief Executive of UK fact-checking organisation Full Fact. Before joining Full Fact in September 2023, he worked as a correspondent for BBC News for over 30 years, covering events such as the civil war in Sri Lanka, the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in India, Bill Clinton's victory in the US Presidential election, as well as reporting from conflicts in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and the Balkans. Towards the end of his time at the BBC, Chris was the BBC's chief online and on-air fact checker, writing and broadcasting on elections, Brexit, COVID, and climate change. He founded the BBC's own fact-checking service, Reality Check.

Full Fact

House of Commons Procedure Committee

Joint Committee on National Security Strategy

Institute for Government

Demos

Please note, this transcript is automatically generated. There are consequently minor errors and the text is not formatted according to our style guide. If you wish to reference or cite the transcript copy below, please first check against the audio version above. Timestamps are provided above each paragraph.

[00:00:02.26] You are listening to "Parliament Matters," a Hansard Society production, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. Learn more at hansardsociety.org.uk/pm.

[00:00:13.83] Welcome to "Parliament Matters", the podcast about the institution at the heart of our democracy, Parliament itself. I'm Ruth Fox.

[00:00:20.97] And I'm Mark Darcy. And coming up in this special edition of the podcast--

[00:00:25.23] We talk to the man trying to guarantee the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in politics and particularly in the upcoming general election campaign. That's Chris Morris, Chief Executive of the fact checking organisation Full Fact.

[00:00:43.85] It is, we're told, going to be an election year. And in that election, there may be a new wild card. Will artificial intelligence be used to produce fake interviews or fake sounds or even fake pictures of candidates doing fake things that turn the voters against them?

[00:01:00.68] Will fake facts creep into political dialogue and possibly turn voters away from one party or another? Well, one of the people who's grappling with the dangerous possibilities raised by all kinds of new technologies and indeed by fake news on the internet already is Chris Morris, who's the head of Full Fact, the fact checking organisation that sinks its teeth into mistakes, misinformation, and outright lies that appear particularly online. So, Chris, first of all, you've produced a new report, Full Fact have produced a new report, that grapples with some of these possibilities.

What's the most dangerous thing, in your view, that might happen at the next election?

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