Cheltenham’s GCHQ to use AI to tackle child sex abuse, disinformation and trafficking

GCHQ Gloucestershire

Analysts at Cheltenham headquartered GCHQ intend to deploy artificial intelligence to protect the UK from threats – from state-backed disinformation campaigns to cyber attacks.

In a paper published today, Ethics of AI: Pioneering a New National Security explains why the technology – enabling problem-solving at scale and speed – will be at the heart of the UK’s intelligence and security organisation’s mission to keep the country safe in an increasingly complex world.

It comes as the Government prepares to publish its Integrated Review into security, defence, development and foreign policy.

The paper also details how GCHQ intends to establish an AI ethical code of practice to recruiting more diverse talent to help develop and govern its use of AI, protecting privacy and striving for systematic fairness.

Examples of how GCHQ could use the technology, includes fact-checking and detecting deepfake media to tackle foreign state disinformation, mapping international networks that enable human, drugs and weapons trafficking, analysing chat rooms for evidence of grooming to prevent child sexual abuse; and how the National Cyber Security Centre could analyse activity at scale to identify malicious software to protect the UK from cyber attacks.

Director GCHQ Jeremy Fleming said: “AI, like so many technologies, offers great promise for society, prosperity and security. It’s impact on GCHQ is equally profound. AI is already invaluable in many of our missions as we protect the country, its people and way of life. It allows our brilliant analysts to manage vast volumes of complex data and improves decision-making in the face of increasingly complex threats – from protecting children to improving cyber security.

“While this unprecedented technological evolution comes with great opportunity, it also poses significant ethical challenges for all of society, including GCHQ.

“Today we are setting out our plan and commitment to the ethical use of AI in our mission. I hope it will inspire further thinking at home and abroad about how we can ensure fairness, transparency and accountability to underpin the use of AI.”

The paper also sets out how GCHQ continues to support the growing AI sector in the UK, including:

  • Setting up an industry-facing AI Lab from its Manchester office, dedicated to prototyping projects which help to keep the country safe;
  • Mentoring and supporting start-ups based around it offices in London, Cheltenham and Manchester through accelerator schemes; and
  • Supporting the creation of the Alan Turing Institute in 2015, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.