Artificial intelligence will cause an “informational chaos”

Twenty years. This is the anniversary being celebrated by Facebook this Sunday, February 4, 2024. Born from the mind of student Mark Zuckerberg, the platform quickly disrupted the lives of billions of internet users. So much so that the company founded by the former Harvard student has become one of the most powerful in the world.

Facebook is the pioneer of a sector that continues to attract more and more users. Yet, if the future of social networks may seem bright, it is threatened. “I have never been so worried,” says Yannick Châtelain, a teacher-researcher at the Grenoble Management School and a specialist in new technologies and social networks.

“Censorship could protect freedom of expression”

According to him, the development of generative artificial intelligence (which creates content) – such as ChatGPT or Midjourney – is changing the game. “Artificial intelligence programs are now available to everyone. The latest smartphone models are equipped with them. Everyone will be able to produce fake news,” laments Yannick Châtelain.

What the researcher fears is the increasing quality of “deepfake” videos and photos, these false images that can easily be confused with reality. “This will lead to informational chaos because humans will no longer have the capacity to discern the true from the false. And the virality on social networks is so rapid that a fake video can have terrible consequences,” explains the researcher.

Two “crash-tests” in 2024

And the year 2024 could set the trend for the future of social networks. “There will be two crash-tests: the Paris Olympic Games and the American election,” announces Yannick Châtelain. According to him, French agencies expect to suffer more than “a billion cyberattacks” during the Olympics, compared to 300 million in Tokyo in 2020.

But the real challenge will be the U.S. presidential campaign. “Propaganda ‘deepfakes’ will flood the networks. Each world power could easily influence the outcome of the election and thus turn the tide of the world in its favor,” explains Yannick Châtelain.

Identifying content generated by AI

The only way to protect oneself from this impending chaos? “Regulate.” But this seems more complex than it appears. And while the Twenty-Seven approved the European Agreement on the regulation of artificial intelligence on Friday, February 2, AI regulation is not yet guaranteed. “The EU has its agreement, China has its own text, and the United States will have theirs. It is therefore as many possibilities to play on the limits, even though it is a global problem,” argues Yannick Châtelain.

Thus, the only way to ensure freedom of expression on social networks could be to “censor or better identify” content generated by artificial intelligence. “In my opinion, all these contents, which can be comical, artistic or propaganda, should be flagged to users,” explains the researcher. “Because it is impossible for platforms to block dangerous content themselves.”

Towards a technophobic society?

If this is not the case, then every piece of content seen on social networks would become suspect. To the point of generating a general mistrust of the Internet. “We have a new generation that knows the ravages of false information on social networks,” says the researcher.

And in this chaos, “only traditional media could maintain a good level of trust with the public.”

••• Mark Zuckerberg’s apologies

“I am sorry for everything you have experienced,” said Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday, January 31, to the U.S. Senate, addressing the dangers of social networks for children and adolescents.

Standing before the victims of the excesses of digital platforms and their families gathered in a room of the U.S. Congress, the head of the Meta multinational acknowledged that “no one should experience the things your families have gone through.”

Addressing the executives, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, “Mr. Zuckerberg, and you and the companies in front of us, I know you don’t think so, but you have blood on your hands. You have a product that is killing people.”

The havoc that social networks have caused to youth is the issue. The head of the network, which has more than two billion users, wanted to defend the many measures taken by his group to protect young people.

“We are working hard to provide parents and teenagers with the support and tools needed to reduce risks,” he assured. “Ensuring the safety of young people online has been a challenge since the advent of the Internet, and as criminals evolve their tactics, we must also evolve our defenses,” he added.

Insufficient for senators who believe that Meta harms the “mental and physical health of youth,” citing the risks of addiction, cyberbullying, or eating disorders. Many of them want to put in place more rules to better regulate these social networks.

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