Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ participation at an event organised by technology companies to combat the misleading use of artificial intelligence in the 2024 elections, in the context of the 60th Munich Security Conference

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis today participated in an event organised by major technology companies, in the context of the 60th Munich Security Conference, for the signing of a Tech Accord to combat the misleading use of artificial intelligence in the 2024 elections.

The Tech Accord has as its main objectives, among others, the prevention of the creation and distribution of misleading material, the labelling of the source of content to allow the identification of suspicious distribution of material on various platforms, the rapid and appropriate response in case the creation or distribution of counterfeit material is detected and the inflow of information to citizens and media to better address the phenomenon of deep fakes.

The Prime Minister’s remarks follow:

“It’s a privilege to be participating in this gathering. And let me start by observing how important it is to be sitting around the same table with the big tech companies. And you made a reference to Athens as the cradle of democracy. And of course, Athenian Democracy was a direct democracy, not a representive democracy. But this does not mean that it was not immune to rumours or populism. And much of the sort of deep thinking that went into the ancient thinkers that wrote about Ancient Democracy focused on how one can protect a democracy against these types of threats.

Today, we’re faced with completely different challenges. And my interest in this topic started when I understood the true capabilities of AI in creating deep fakes that can be extremely convincing and highly, highly dangerous in an electoral environment. Imagine Friday before an election blackout period. For example, in Greece there’s nothing we can do after midnight on Friday and on Saturday, you suddenly have an audio or a video circulating that is a deep fake that clearly catches fire and you have no way of responding. This is actually exactly what happened in Slovakia, and this is something which we know will happen in many upcoming elections.

So the challenge is, how do we protect ourselves against what we know is going to happen. And I find it particularly encouraging that the technology companies are recognising that they have an important role to play. At the end of the day, they also have the technologies and can advise us on how we can protect ourselves against this upcoming reality. And the fact that we’re sitting around the table today by recognising that this is a real threat and that actions need to be taken, I think is a clear step in the right direction.

My second very brief observation is that whatever we do and whatever you do obviously cannot and will not replace our obligation as a European Union to regulate this space. And the Vice President will talk much more about this. So I won’t take a lot of her time speaking about what we have done, starting from GDPR, the Digital Services Act and of course now the AI Act. But the voluntary contribution of tech companies goes hand in hand with a regulatory framework.

And of course, finding the right balance between proper regulation and not stifling innovation is a constant challenge. And I must say that sometimes we sit at this table with a certain asymmetry of information or of deep understanding of exactly how the technology itself works. This sometimes may be a problem because when we as politicians feel we don’t completely understand what’s happening in terms of technology, we may tend to overregulate. And this could be a problem when it comes to the development of AI.

My last very brief observation is that we need to educate the public. And this is particularly important because at a time when a lot of the sort of campaigning work and the political activity happens through social media, explaining to the general public what exactly can happen through very convincing deep fakes is a joint obligation that we both have. Is the general public going to be more suspicious? Yes. But do they also have an obligation to think twice when they see something which is suspicious or sort of out of the ordinary? Yes, because we may not have the time to either properly label it, identify as fake or even remove it from the platform.

So this general education exercise about sort of the malign capabilities of AI, I think is a joint obligation. And the more I think we talk about the risks, the more educated the public is going to become and of course the less susceptible to any type of disinformation.

And my final observation is that we put a lot of faith as politicians in new campaign techniques. And yes, indeed they can work wonders within the framework of the proper regulation and the rules that we have to apply in terms of communicating our messages to target audiences. But at the end of the day, nothing can replace what we call retail, traditional retail politics and shaking people’s hands. And as far as I know, technology is still not capable of creating a convincing hologram of me walking in a Greek village doing traditional campaigning work. It may happen at some point, but it also allows us to think again in terms of not putting all our faith in terms of communicating with the general public in a campaign simply by using the most advanced technological tool.

So again, as a head of government that thinks a lot about the future of democracy and about protecting the integrity of the democratic process, congratulations on this initiative.

I think it’s a clear step in the right direction. And let’s also think about how we can use AI tools to make the democratic process better in terms of making public consultations more effective and more objective. So let’s look at the flip side of this, and we’ll be looking for your contribution. What can AI do to make public engagement better in order to build sort of more trust between the elected officials and the general public? Thank you”.

During the event, the importance of the Tech Accord and the need to adopt similar collective initiatives was stressed, given that in 2024, polls will be held in dozens of countries representing about half of the world’s population, while progress in the field of artificial intelligence allows the development of convincing misleading material aimed at misinformation.

During the Prime Minister’s talks on the sidelines of the event, it was stressed that Greece has already taken a very active role in the field of artificial intelligence, with a series of government initiatives to contribute to the development of a matrix of best rules and practices, especially for the ethical use of AI.

In this context, it was pointed out that our country has already established an Advisory Committee for AI, has prepared a study on generative AI (Generative AI Greece 2030) and is in the process of preparing a National Strategy.

The event was also attended by European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová, US Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, MEP Eva Maydell and senior executives from the technology companies Adobe, Amazon, Google, IBM, Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and TikTok.