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AI vs Democracy
The threat of AI-generated disinformation has escalated, and many internet users interact with it daily. The ease and affordability of creating manipulative AI content have become alarming, prompting experts to express concerns about its impact on the political landscape. Several instances have emerged online have heightened worry over AI’s global impact on democracy.
The increasing use of AI in political campaigning has compromised the information ecosystem with deceptions and inaccuracies, leaving voters susceptible to misinformation.
In September 2023, an AI-generated recording of Slovakian candidate Michael Slimecka surfaced on social media, featuring him plotting with a journalist to buy votes and rig election results. This recording was viewed by thousands of Slovakian voters.
In November 2023, Argentine President-elect Javier Milei circulated a fabricated image of his rival, Sergio Massa, depicted as an old-fashioned communist in military garb. The image accumulated 3 million views.
In December 2023, over 100 deepfake video advertisements impersonating Rishi Sunak were financially endorsed for promotion on Facebook, reaching over 400,000 people. This included footage of BBC newsreader, Sarah Campbell, reading out breaking news that falsely claim a scandal has erupted around Sunak misappropriating project funds intended for ordinary citizens.
The broader societal implications
An estimated two billion people will be heading to the polls worldwide in 2024, signifying an influential role AI will play in determining elected officials and shaping future policies. AI’s influence will be particularly pronounced in countries where candidates are not well-funded, whose primary focus is quickly distributing information to the public. Consequently, AI-generated misinformation might go unchecked, leading to voter confusion and deception.
A cause for significant concern is the minimal expertise required to use AI maliciously, meaning anyone could be a perpetrator. Anonymity adds to the challenge of identifying the offender or tracing the origin of the content. Moreover, the global reach of AI content, unhindered by jurisdictional boundaries, creates opportunities for foreign countries to influence elections or undermine their integrity through entering and engaging with the information ecosystem, all without repercussions.
Dame Wendy Hall, a member of the government’s AI council, highlighted the growing challenge of detecting deepfakes. She underscores the urgent need to develop advanced technologies to address the issue, warning that the absence of sufficient measures could lead to an abundance of disinformation circulating around the internet during the upcoming elections.
Law firm involvement
As risks associated with AI-generated disinformation intensify, law firms will have to proactively anticipate emerging AI regulation and analyse the evolving landscape as well as potential risks for their clients. Clients seeking advice may include Local Governments, political parties, and political campaigning groups.
However, advice on AI’s impact on the political landscape extends beyond the UK. Thus, law firms with an international focus will be compiling advice on AI laws across different jurisdictions with varying levels of AI safeguarding.
Legal battles over infringing AI content may also increase, creating opportunities for lawyers in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution practices to be involved in cases which will shape the future of IP law.
Social media platforms play a key role in the spread of AI-generated disinformation since most content is shared online. For example, the fake advertisements featuring Rishi Sunak violated several Facebook policies but only a few were removed. As a result, big tech companies face increasing pressure to introduce safeguards around deepfakes and ensure appropriate moderation calls whilst remaining neutral.
The recent Online Safety Act (see article by Aqua Koroma) has put in place new requirements on social media platforms to swiftly remove illegal or harmful content, including AI-generated disinformation as soon as they become aware of it. Law firms advising in sectors like Media, Telecoms or Technology will assist social media platforms in ensuring they are within the scope of the Online Safety Act and on any reasonable steps needed to ensure compliance with AI regulation.
Law firms may also assist companies and start-ups in identifying legal barriers when creating technology to tackle deepfakes. For example, the BBC launched ‘BBC verify’ in 2023 aimed at addressing the threat of disinformation through forensic and open-source intelligence which investigates, verifies and fact checks data. Law firms will advise on Data Protection and IP rights as well as compliance with international laws where disinformation is spread across jurisdictions.
Article by Dominika Gaber
The Procurement Act: Transforming Public Procurement?
Impacting both government public bodies and tenderers, the Procurement Act 2023 reforms the public procurement landscape in the UK. The Act, coming into force in October 2024, will affect how government entities procure goods, and how contractors bid for public contracts.
Crucially, law firms might strategically align themselves with small and medium-sized businesses to capitalise on the Act’s provisions that promote competition and transparency.
The Importance of Public Procurement
In a business context, procurement is the process of acquiring essential goods and services. It involves activities such as sourcing, negotiation, purchasing, and contract management. Effective procurement often signals profitability, as the business secures good resources on favourable terms.
Public procurement, the process by which government entities and public sector organizations acquire goods, services, and works, differs from private procurement. Rather than maximising efficiency, it focuses on value for taxpayer money and adherence to principles of transparency and public accountability, whilst being restrained by regulations that ensure the ethical use of public funds.
Public procurement has a substantial impact on national economies, sometimes accounting for a sizeable portion of the GDP. It is the process by which government delivers essential public services, such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
Impact of the Procurement Act 2023
The Act’s primary objectives are to streamline procurement processes, improve transparency, and ensure value for money. It aims to make the system simpler for businesses, particularly SMEs, to engage in public tenders and to modernise procurement to align with contemporary practices.
The Procurement Act 2023 introduces several significant changes. It consolidates over 300 procurement-related regulations into a single legislation, making it easier for businesses to understand and comply with the existing regulations. The introduction of a central digital platform for supplier registration simplifies the bidding process, potentially increasing competition and participation. The Act also strengthens measures against supplier misconduct and emphasises the ethical use of public funds.
However, there are concerns about the Act’s practical implementation, such as whether it will indeed level the playing field for smaller businesses. The Act’s rather onerous transparency measures may also be scrutinised for its intention in reducing corruption and inefficiency.
Law Firm Involvement
Traditionally, law firms have played a vital role in assisting private companies with procurement activities, such as providing legal advice on contract negotiations, supplier agreements, compliance with relevant laws and regulations. They help in structuring deals, ensuring fair tender processes, and drafting procurement contracts.
UK law firms have extended their expertise to assist public bodies and private businesses on public procurement. In addition to advising on compliance with public procurement regulations, the preparation of tender documents, and ensuring that procurement processes are sufficiently transparent, law firms provide guidance on structuring public-private partnerships (PPPs) and advise on mitigating public procurement risks.
With the Procurement Act 2023, law firms are well-positioned to help their clients navigate the new legislative changes. Crucially, law firms may choose to advice SMBs on effectively implement the Act’s provisions that concern the promotion of SMEs in public tenders. Anticipating an increase in public-private partnerships with smaller businesses, law firms could proactively advise their smaller clients to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the Procurement Act 2023.
Article by David Zheng