Information Warfares in the age of “AI”

Information warfare in this age of artificial intelligence has confirmed more than ever what has come to be called‭ ‬“post-truth”‭, ‬meaning people’s increasing tendency to shape their opinions and beliefs based on emotions rather than facts when it comes to political and public affairs‭.‬

People are increasingly rejecting facts and accepting lies‭, ‬even blatant ones‭. ‬This is strongly linked to the rumours dominating‭ ‬media outlets and social media‭, ‬which shockingly numerous studies indicate that people accept This prompted German philosopher‭ ‬Peter Sloterdijk to say that Western societies have become akin to a man who lost trust in doctors and turned to quack healers and charlatans in search of impossible hope‭.‬

This has led to the collapse of the fundamental premise of the‭ ‬“infallibility and wisdom of the rational majority”‭, ‬which is the cornerstone of democracy‭.‬

Lies are no longer just random market gossip‭, ‬but rather a whole industry‭, ‬that doesn’t only falsify facts but also creates events‭, ‬according to various studies‭.‬

The term post-truth does not simply mean manipulating facts and denying reality‭, ‬as is commonly understood‭, ‬but means the difficulty or even impossibility‭, ‬for most people to reach the truth‭.‬

In this context‭, ‬NATO’s Center of Excellence for Strategic Communications held its latest annual Riga StratCom Dialogue conference in Riga‭, ‬Latvia between June 7-8‭, ‬2023‭, ‬to discuss how artificial intelligence‭ (‬AI‭) ‬is not only enhancing adversaries’‭ ‬offensive capabilities in the digital sphere‭, ‬but also weakening societies’‭ ‬defensive capacities against information manipulation‭.‬

Objectives‭: ‬

First‭: ‬Key Artificial Intelligence-Enhanced Information Warfare Tools and Risks

Through text generation programs like ChatGPT and image generators like Midjourney‭, ‬artificial intelligence can generate and spread misinformation‭, ‬disinformation or hate speech‭, ‬leading to information pollution that threatens human progress and international security and peace‭, ‬as shown in figure No‭. (‬1‭).‬

The main arena for artificial intelligence-enhanced information warfare is social media‭, ‬as illustrated in figure No‭. (‬2‭).‬

A broad segment of the users of these platforms are aware that they are exposed to information warfare‭, ‬which is sometimes enhanced by AI‭.‬

A study of survey data collected from 142‭ ‬countries found that 58.5%‭ ‬of regular internet and social media users worldwide are concerned about the risk of exposure to false and misleading information online‭.‬

Moreover‭, ‬83%‭ ‬of respondents in a recent UN opinion survey reported that false and misleading information had a major impact on‭ ‬recent elections in their country/region‭.‬

Experts emphasize that the top 10‭ ‬trends in employing AI for warfare include the use of deepfakes‭. ‬

For instance‭, ‬AI can generate fake‭  ‬videos of leaders‭, ‬officials and commanders making statements potentially causing confusion‭ ‬among the public‭, ‬falsifying facts‭, ‬igniting conflicts‭, ‬and defaming and distorting public‭, ‬political and artistic figures through expertly forged voice and facial biometrics‭, ‬making it extremely difficult‭, ‬especially for the general public‭, ‬to detect or authenticate any digital content‭.‬

Second‭: ‬Riga StratCom Dialogue‭: ‬Context‭, ‬Goals and Outcomes

Conference Context and Goals

According to the conference‭, ‬the unstable geopolitical landscape requires NATO member states to develop an effective approach to‭ ‬information warfare‭.‬

This is especially important following a series of global crises that have shaped today’s and tomorrow’s world‭, ‬including the covid-19‭ ‬pandemic‭, ‬the decline of democracy‭, ‬the Russia-Ukraine war on Europe’s doorstep‭, ‬the shift of power to non-Western spheres‭, ‬the climate emergency‭, ‬making‭ ‬“Permacrisis”‭ ‬a defining word for the decade‭.‬

This means NATO members and possibly many world regions will experience a prolonged period of turmoil and suffering due to seemingly endless difficulties and enormous challenges‭. ‬

The West‭, ‬possibly the whole world‭, ‬has fallen into the‭ ‬“permanent crisis”‭ ‬trap‭. 

Furthermore‭, ‬information warfare‭, ‬especially its AI-enhanced tools‭, ‬has exacerbated the crisis and contributed to its persistence‭. ‬

Technologies like ChatGPT‭ (‬which recently gained huge popularity‭), ‬raise serious concerns about unprecedented information manipulation and as the revolution of artificial intelligence continues we can expect major geostrategic shifts accompanied by artificial intelligence-enhanced information warfare‭. ‬

These developments require innovative‭, ‬creative thinking and a dynamic‭, ‬long-term strategy‭. ‬For this‭, ‬the Riga StratCom Dialogue‭ ‬conference was held‭, ‬bringing together hundreds of top experts‭, ‬practitioners and policymakers from different disciplines worldwide for vibrant discussions and seeking sustainable solutions‭. ‬To summarize‭, ‬the conference aimed to be a platform for in-depth‭ ‬discussions and dialogues on how to effectively assess today’s information environment and identify potential vulnerabilities to be addressed for information security‭.‬

Key Conference Sessions and Outcomes

‭ ‬Approaches and Methodologies Session‭ “‬Tracking Global Influence Campaigns‭”.‬

Chaired by the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence’s Digital Forensic Research Lab‭ (‬DFRLab‭), ‬which took the audience on a journey through case study examples of online information‭ ‬manipulation and influence campaigns using artificial intelligence‭. ‬

During the session‭, ‬the supervising team presented recent OSINT investigations that uncovered new aspects of military‭, ‬political‭ ‬and social affairs in Armenia‭, ‬Moldova and Sudan‭, ‬as well as Russia’s ongoing attempts to influence Western Europe in particular and the world in general‭. ‬

Through interactive practical examples with the session audience via Meta‭, ‬X and Telegram platforms‭, ‬the team step-by-step turned them into Digital Sherlocks‭.‬

●‭ ‬Deterrence in the Information Environment in the Coming Decades Session

Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008‭ ‬and Ukraine in 2014‭, ‬the conflict in Syria‭, ‬migration‭, ‬and other global challenges were wake-up calls the West ignored in a moment of complacency‭.  ‬The events of 2022‭ ‬proved that the outbreak of a large-scale conventional war is not just a hypothetical possibility‭, ‬but a brutal reality happening in the heart of Europe‭, ‬according to participants‭ ‬in this session‭. ‬

The core question of this session was‭: ‬Can the West deter Russia‭, ‬not only to prevent further bloodshed but also to refrain from‭ ‬carrying out hybrid and foreign interventions in Europe‭, ‬including in the information sphere and especially using AI-enhanced tools‭? ‬

●‭ ‬Countering Adversary Narratives Session

According to NATO‭, ‬China continues to invest in promoting its narratives and visions of the world‭, ‬exerting a prominent influence across the so-called‭ ‬“Global South”‭. ‬What amount of information infrastructure data has the Chinese Communist Party amassed under the guise of the Global South‭? ‬Are NATO and its allies ready for tomorrow’s artificial intelligence-enhanced information battlefields with China and other unfriendly states‭?  ‬On the other hand‭, ‬Russian narratives and powerful proxies in the information space of many countries in Africa‭, ‬Latin America and other regions pose a threat to Western narratives‭. ‬The question this session raised is‭: ‬What can NATO and its allies do to counter these narratives‭?‬

What makes countering these narratives so difficult is the ability to use AI-enhanced tools to produce cheap and high-quality propaganda‭. ‬

Thanks to its programming capability in different computer languages‭, ‬programs like ChatGPT for example facilitate the creation‭ ‬of websites and botnets aimed at amplifying narratives and sneakily marketing them‭.‬

Third‭: ‬Proposals for Countering AI-Enhanced Information Warfare and its Challenges

The risks posed by AI tools generating and spreading false information‭, ‬disinformation‭, ‬or hate speech on societies‭’ ‬resilience‭ ‬are indeed real‭, ‬however‭, ‬the following approaches can help mitigate their effects‭:‬

●‭ ‬A major increase in academic research investments‭,‬‭ ‬Conducting more research would help improve our ability to detect messages fabricated by AI tools‭, ‬especially with the growing‭ ‬capabilities of stylometry‭, ‬i.e‭. ‬identifying excessive linguistic expressions‭, ‬and machine learning‭.‬

●‭ ‬Making data collected by companies’‭ ‬own fact-checking tools available‭ ‬this would empower the efforts aimed at enabling citizens to defend their information and societies‭. ‬A recent study highlights‭ ‬the useful potential of such corporate programs‭, ‬including ChatGPT‭, ‬to improve the efficiency and speed of fact-checking for citizens‭, ‬if we can guarantee the neutrality of information used by such programs and companies‭. ‬

●‭ ‬Rethinking the legal frameworks concerning the threat of AI to the cohesion of societies as a whole‭ ‬it is necessary to have clear rules and guidelines to hold companies accountable when their tools are used for deception‭. ‬Academic consensus seems to support the rapid adaptation of national‭, ‬even European legal frameworks‭, ‬to AI provisions‭, ‬such as those‭ ‬related to copyright or user data protection‭. ‬Meanwhile‭, ‬preventive measures can be adopted in the face of threats posed by the‭ ‬authoritarian use of AI‭.‬

●‭ ‬Expanding the methods used by governmental entities in their strategic communications‭ ‬this approach should be supported by the positive effects of preventive exposure to misinformation‭.‬

●‭ ‬Balancing innovation and safety‭, ‬Such balance is critical to ensure responsible AI development and use in the information sphere‭, ‬thus governments need to develop and implement regulatory frameworks to address potential AI risks and effects on the information environment‭.‬

●‭ ‬Establishing an ethical framework for responsible AI development and use‭ ‬this framework is critical for information environment security‭, ‬which is based on transparency‭, ‬fairness and accountability as‭ ‬the fundamental principles guiding AI development and use in information generation and dissemination‭. ‬Additionally‭, ‬AI systems‭ ‬should be designed to align with human values and rights‭, ‬foster inclusiveness‭, ‬and avoid bias and discrimination‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬ethical considerations must be an integral part of the AI development lifecycle in the information sphere‭.‬

●‭ ‬Public education as a defence against information deception

educating individuals about AI and its uses in information warfare is critical to building a society capable of overcoming such‭ ‬warfare‭.‬

‭ ‬Cooperative partnerships between stakeholders‭ ‬these partnerships can help counter artificial intelligence-enhanced or‭ -‬generated information warfare‭. ‬Addressing the challenges posed by AI in the information sphere requires cooperation between AI experts‭, ‬policymakers and industry leaders‭, ‬unifying their expertise and perspectives to derive effective solutions‭.‬

However‭, ‬some challenges hinder the implementation or effectiveness of these proposed solutions‭:‬

First‭: ‬Monopolistic practices‭, ‬as with digital platforms‭, ‬data from user interactions with AI tools remains monopolized by a handful of‭ ‬corporations and governments‭. ‬

Second‭:‬‭ ‬The technical and financial inadequacy of political decision-makers and the scientific community to effectively counter the threats posed by AI in information deception‭.‬

Third‭:‬‭ ‬The geopolitical dimensions that hamper efforts for responsible AI use‭. ‬While calls to establish international centres responsible for monitoring AI developments seem commendable‭, ‬they remain an unrealistic policy for states and alliances‭.‬


Like NATO‭, ‬many blocs are increasingly convinced that AI’s unchecked progress can turn it into a powerful tool for deception and‭ ‬political disruption‭. ‬At a May 2023‭ ‬meeting‭, ‬the G7‭ ‬said it plans to rein in AI and launched‭ ‬“Operation Hiroshima”‭ ‬in the Japanese city to hold ministerial-level discussions on rapidly evolving AI technologies and their effects on the information environment‭. ‬

In the following June‭, ‬United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world must confront the‭ “‬monumental international harm‭” ‬stemming from the spread of hatred and lies online‭.‬

Thus‭, ‬it seems that the modern human information environments will remain threatened by information deception‭, ‬hate speech and artificial intelligence-enhanced disinformation warfare until we find a way to coexist with it or curb its most dangerous effects‭.‬

‮‬‭ ‬By‭: ‬Professor Wael Saleh
‭ (‬Expert at Trends Research‭ & ‬Advisory Center‭)‬

Al Jundi

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