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AI will allow more foreign influence operations in 2024 election, FBI director says


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The 2024 US election will feature more foreign adversaries that are trying to meddle in the election than previous voting cycles thanks to artificial intelligence and other technological advances, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Thursday.

Advances in AI-generated photos and videos “are lowering the barrier to entry” for malign foreign influence in US elections, allowing foreign operatives to move “at a faster pace” targeting US voters, Wray told the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, an intelligence industry group.

AI makes “foreign influence efforts by players both old and new more realistic and more difficult to detect,” Wray added.

Wray’s speech is one of the more direct public warnings from a senior US official about the potential for such AI-made fake content, known as deepfakes, to accelerate propaganda and misinformation aimed at US voters.

The role of deepfakes in election security has become all the more critical for US officials in light of the recent AI-made robocall ahead of the New Hampshire primary that mimicked President Joe Biden’s voice.  A New Orleans magician made the robocall at the behest of a political consultant working for Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, a long-shot Democratic challenger to Biden, the magician has told CNN.

US officials have been trying to grapple with the uncertainty that AI can inject into the information environment during elections. At a White House exercise in December, senior officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other agencies had to respond to a simulation in which Chinese operatives created a fake AI-generated video of a Senate candidate destroying ballots, CNN has reported.

In his speech Thursday, Wray said the FBI, working with other US intelligence and security agencies, has a “combat-tempo response” to foreign election threats because of years of working together on the issue.

Wray also spoke about non-election-related threats, saying that the FBI was “intensely focused” on a range of cyber and national security threats from the Chinese government. As for Iran, the FBI director said that Tehran “has been more brazen over the last few years than I’ve seen in my career.”

Wray cited a 2021 cyberattack on Boston Children’s Hospital and an assassination plot against former US national security adviser John Bolton, both of which the FBI blamed on Iran. The Iranian government denied both allegations.