Malicious use of AI threatens world peace and security, says UN chief

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THE United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has said that malicious use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems for terrorist, criminal, or state purposes could cause horrific levels of death and destruction leading to widespread trauma and deep psychological trauma.

He made this known at the first UN Security Council (UNSC) session on AI held on July 18, 2023.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the UN chief said that although AI is being used in connection with peace and security, including in the United Nations, it is being used to identify patterns of violence, monitor ceasefires, and more, helping to strengthen peacekeeping, mediation, and humanitarian efforts.

He added that AI is also being used for malicious intent as AI models can help people to harm themselves and each other at a massive scale.

“AI-enabled cyberattacks are already targeting critical infrastructure and our own peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, causing great human suffering.  The technical and financial barriers to access are low, including for criminals and terrorists.  Both military and non-military applications of AI could have very serious consequences for global peace and security,” Guterres said.

While urging the Council to approach the technology with a sense of urgency, a global lens, and a learner’s mindset, he pointed out that the advent of generative AI could be an elucidating moment for disinformation and hate speech such as undermining truth, facts, and safety, adding a new dimension to the manipulation of human behavior and contributing to polarization and instability on a vast scale.

“Deepfakes are just one new AI-enabled tool that, if unchecked, could have serious implications for peace and stability. And the unforeseen consequences of some AI-enabled systems could create security risks by accident.  Look no further than social media.  Tools and platforms that were designed to enhance human connection are now used to undermine elections, spread conspiracy theories and incite hatred and violence,” he emphasized.

Other areas of concern he specifically mentioned include the malfunctioning AI systems, noting that the rate of interaction between AI and nuclear weapons, biotechnology, neuro-technology, and robotics is alarming.

Guterres said: “Generative AI has enormous potential for good and evil at scale.  Its creators themselves have warned that much bigger, potentially catastrophic, and existential risks lie ahead.  Without action to address these risks, we are derelict in our responsibilities to present and future generations.”

As part of measures to monitor and govern AI, the UN chief announced that a multi-stakeholder high-level Advisory Board for Artificial Intelligence that will report back on the options for global AI governance would be created.

Guterres also stated that an upcoming Policy Brief on A New Agenda for Peace would include  recommendations on AI governance to Member States comprising:

1) It will recommend that Member States develop national strategies on the responsible design, development, and use of AI, consistent with their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

2) It will call on Member States to engage in a multilateral process to develop norms, rules, and principles around military applications of AI while ensuring the engagement of other relevant stakeholders.

3) It will call on Member States to agree on a global framework to regulate and strengthen oversight mechanisms for the use of data-driven technology, including artificial intelligence, for counter-terrorism purposes.

In conclusion, the UN chief urged the Council to exercise leadership on artificial intelligence while working together for AI to bridge social, digital, and economic divides.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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