Investors on the hook for artificial intelligence abuse

Discrimination, loss of privacy and distorted data linked to artificial intelligence is putting companies and their backers at risk, an investor group warns.

A network with more than 500 members representing US$29 trillion in assets released advice on Wednesday to screen out investments at risk of doing more harm than good as the technology spreads.

Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) co-CEO Estelle Parker said investors were “really struggling to get their heads around things like privacy and data protection, online safety, political participation and discrimination”.

Ms Parker said inadequately designed, inappropriately used or maliciously deployed AI threatens individuals and their human rights.

“From powering algorithms through to enabling deepfake pornography, the vast potential of AI is linked to a wide range of human rights risks,” she said.

Companies and their investors, including superannuation funds, could face reputational damage, fines and financial losses.

Releasing the investor toolkit at a conference in Sydney, she said the advice was for those who may not have much experience with the financial and human rights risks associated with AI.

Algorithms that power many social media platforms can be found to amplify negative and destructive content, which may also lead to reputational and legal risks, the toolkit explained.

AI can increase system vulnerability to cyber-attacks resulting in mass privacy violations and focus attacks on women and children.

Generative AI is being used, in particular through the creation of sexually explicit imagery known as deepfakes, to cause harm and trample on rights to privacy, RIAA said.

The technology also poses risks of bias and exacerbates discrimination of individuals, particularly those from historically marginalised communities.

“As investors, we need to be aware of how these are emerging and what we can do to address them,” Ms Parker said.

Rather than a hands-off investment style, she said a method known as “stewardship” was the most responsible way to reduce risk.

This involves communicating concerns and priorities directly to company bosses to get better business practices – or dumping the unsafe investment.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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