EDITORIAL - Banning AI, deepfakes

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Banning AI, deepfakes

In the past months, several public figures have found themselves being used without their consent for video materials using artificial intelligence and featuring their deepfake versions. With AI being used to fake a video message featuring even President Marcos, the Commission on Elections is now eyeing a ban on AI and deepfakes during the campaign for the midterm elections next year.

People will welcome the Comelec’s plan. The question is whether it can enforce the ban. In previous elections, disinformation, misinformation, trolling and other malicious content have flooded cyberspace. The Comelec had enlisted the help of cyber security agencies, social media giants and concerned civic groups in monitoring digital platforms and going after the perpetrators. Several social media accounts were taken down for what was described as coordinated inauthentic behavior. Certain persons tagged as paid trolls were also traced and publicly identified.

But despite the accounts taken down and trolls neutralized, the volume of disinformation, misinformation and malicious information remained overwhelming throughout the election campaigns. Since the 2022 general elections, AI technology has become even more advanced, raising concerns about its misuse and malevolent impact on the 2025 election campaign and subsequent electoral exercises.

Law enforcement agencies have cybersecurity units, but these are understaffed and need more funding and resources. Similar problems are faced by the cybersecurity team of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. The government has sought assistance from the US government in enhancing cybersecurity involving critical infrastructure and services such as public utilities and the banking and financial system.

The Comelec has found it difficult even to effectively monitor and regulate campaign expenditures using social media. For many voters, the disinformation and malicious information during electoral campaigns have aggravated the difficulty of making informed choices. This has undermined the democratic process. AI can further erode the free exercise of the people’s will. If the Comelec proceeds with its plan to ban the use of AI and deepfakes in the 2025 campaign, it should see to it that it has minimum credible capability to enforce the ban.

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