UN chief backs global AI watchdog amid disinformation concerns

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in spreading disinformation and hate, supporting the proposal for an international watchdog to monitor the technology. Guterres highlighted the risks AI poses to democracy and human rights during the launch of a new policy on disinformation.

The Secretary-General endorsed the idea of creating a watchdog body, akin to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as proposed by some AI executives. Generative AI technology has captured public interest since the launch of ChatGPT six months ago. However, concerns have arisen over its potential to create misinformation and deep fakes, which are AI-generated images and videos that mimic people.

Guterres emphasised the importance of taking AI warnings seriously, stating, “These scientists and experts have called on the world to act, declaring AI an existential threat to humanity on a par with the risk of nuclear war. We must take those warnings seriously.”

By the end of the year, Guterres plans to establish a high-level AI advisory body to review AI governance arrangements regularly and provide recommendations on aligning them with human rights, the rule of law, and the common good. He also expressed interest in the idea of an artificial intelligence agency modelled after the IAEA, but noted that only member states could create it, not the United Nations Secretariat.

ChatGPT’s creator, OpenAI, suggested last month that a body like the IAEA could impose restrictions on deployment, verify compliance with safety standards, and monitor the usage of computing power. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also backed the idea, expressing his desire for Britain to be the centre of global AI safety regulation. The country is set to host a summit this year to discuss coordinated international action to address the risks of AI.

Robert Sparrow, a Philosophy Professor at Australia’s Monash University, told Al Jazeera that while regulation would be a global issue, he does not believe a single agency will regulate AI. Instead, he said, “We are looking for a culture change, particularly in engineering and computer science but also across government and civil society.”

Guterres supported the plan for a summit in Britain and stressed the need for “serious work” beforehand. In the coming days, he intends to appoint a scientific advisory board comprising AI experts and chief scientists from UN agencies.

World News


With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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