AI Can Write Disinformation Now—and Dupe Human Readers


27-05-21 08:23:00,

When OpenAI demonstrated a powerful artificial intelligence algorithm capable of generating coherent text last June, its creators warned that the tool could potentially be wielded as a weapon of online misinformation.

​Now a team of disinformation experts has demonstrated how effectively that algorithm, called GPT-3, could be used to mislead and misinform. The results suggest that although AI may not be a match for the best Russian meme-making operative, it could amplify some forms of deception that would be especially difficult to spot.

Over six months, a group at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology used GPT-3 to generate misinformation, including stories around a false narrative, news articles altered to push a bogus perspective, and tweets riffing on particular points of disinformation.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that climate change is the new global warming,” read a sample tweet composed by GPT-3 that aimed to stoke skepticism about climate change. “They can’t talk about temperature increases because they’re no longer happening.” A second labeled climate change “the new communism—an ideology based on a false science that cannot be questioned.”

“With a little bit of human curation, GPT-3 is quite effective” at promoting falsehoods, says Ben Buchanan, a professor at Georgetown involved with the study, who focuses on the intersection of AI, cybersecurity, and statecraft.

The Georgetown researchers say GPT-3, or a similar AI language algorithm, could prove especially effective for automatically generating short messages on social media, what the researchers call “one-to-many” misinformation.

In experiments, the researchers found that GPT-3’s writing could sway readers’ opinions on issues of international diplomacy. The researchers showed volunteers sample tweets written by GPT-3 about the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and US sanctions on China. In both cases, they found that participants were swayed by the messages. After seeing posts opposing China sanctions, for instance, the percentage of respondents who said they were against such a policy doubled.

Mike Gruszczynski, a professor at Indiana University who studies online communications, says he would be unsurprised to see AI take a bigger role in disinformation campaigns. He points out that bots have played a key role in spreading false narratives in recent years,

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