US special ops to wage real-time AI information war

Accrete, the company facilitating the Pentagon’s AI foray, also sells a tool that allows corporations to counter damaging rumors

US Special Operations Command has partnered with AI software developer Accrete to take on “synthetic media” and so-called disinformation on social media in real time, the Pentagon contractor revealed in a press release last week. 

Accrete’s “open-source threat detection” software, called Argus after the many-eyed figure of Greek mythology, reportedly analyzes social media data to capture “emerging narratives” and quickly summarizes the information a military force would need to stamp out unfriendly trends even as they are still in the process of going viral.  

The tool would be used by intelligence analysts and other specialists to “predict real time disinformation threats from social media,” the company explained.  

These might include “AI-generated viral narratives, deep fakes, and other harmful social media-based applications of AI,” Accrete CEO Prashant Bhuyan said in the company’s statement, claiming these “pose a serious threat to US national security and civil society” and that social media itself is an “unregulated environment where adversaries routinely exploit reasoning vulnerabilities and manipulate behavior through the intentional spread of disinformation.” 

The Pentagon isn’t the only customer that will have access to Argus’ capabilities – a version called Nebula Social is set to be marketed to private corporations in order to manage their online reputations and customers’ conversation about their brand.   

“Companies are already experiencing significant economic damage caused by the spread of AI-generated viral disinformation and deep fakes manufactured by competitors, disgruntled employees, and other types of adversaries,” Bhuyan said, arguing the market was looking for military-grade information warfare tools to be shared with the private sector.  

“We believe that the market for AI that can predict and neutralize malign AI-generated synthetic media is about to explode,” he predicted. The private-sector version of the software is supposed to protect against “customer pain points” by learning what a company values and responding to the most relevant issues first – before they have a chance to negatively impact client behavior – with autonomously-generated content, i.e. synthetic media. 

The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, co-founded by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, initially worked with Accrete to develop Argus in November, paying millions of dollars for a five-year license to the program designed to – among other things – uncover “behavioral anomalies indicative of potentially illicit activity that are too complex for humans to identify.”

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