Google has a plan to save us from AI deepfakes during the US presidential race

Amidst the rise of AI popularity, Google has decided that political ads that make use of artificial intelligence have to clearly disclose when imagery or audio has been manipulated synthetically. 

Campaigns that put out AI-generated ads on YouTube and any other Google platforms will have to show an obvious disclaimer that users are unlikely to miss, as reported by the Associated Press.

Experts have already been sounding off about the need for widespread regulation and the raising of awareness among the wider public ahead of elections, and it seems they're not the only ones with concerns. 

When and where the new policy will kick in

This political policy update was made by Google last week, with the policy officially kicking into effect in mid-November. Google also announced that it will adopt similar policies for campaign ads in time for elections in the European Union, India, South Africa, and other regions for which Google has a verification process in place. 

AI-generated and falsified media clips have become an everyday occurrence in political media, and generative AI tools are a new way to assist with that. Not only do these tools make it easier and faster to produce misinformation, they also enable bad actors to mimic speech or appearance in photos and videos more realistically. 

AI-generated video has already been used by the political campaign of one of the current forerunners for the Republican party in the US, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.

DeSantis’ campaign put out an ad that depicted his GOP opponent and Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, positively embracing Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as one of the chief medical experts who advised Trump during the COVID pandemic. In a similar vein, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released a wholly AI-generated ad depicting what it imagines the future to be under Joe Biden. 

Looking at AI and deepfakes on a federal level

In an effort echoing Google’s new policies, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) has begun looking at implementing regulation to moderate AI-generated ads such as ‘deepfakes’ (doctored videos and images of real people). Advocates on the issue say this should help steer voters away from misinformation. It’s easy to see how regulation of this sort could help – deepfakes can come in the form of political figures saying or doing things they never expressed in real life.

Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar is a co-sponsor of legislation that would demand similar requirements to Google’s policy law; potentially deceptive AI-generated political ads will have to include disclaimers disclosing the fact. Sen. Klobuchar commented on Google’s policy in a statement praising the company’s move but also stating that “we can’t solely rely on voluntary commitments.”

Multiple states have already passed or have begun discussing legislation to address deepfake technology. 

This new policy does not mean all use of AI by political campaigns is banned – there are notable exceptions for altering content in ways that don’t change the substance and content of the advert. For instance, this includes using AI tools for media editing and quality improvement purposes. It also will apply largely to YouTube, along with the rest of Google’s platforms, and whatever third-party sites exist within Google’s ad display network.

What are other tech giants' policies?

As of this week, Google is still the only platform to put a policy like this in place in what is probably a proactive effort. I expect other social media platforms will have to follow if their existing policy is insufficient, especially if more widespread legislation comes into place.

Meta, parent company of Instagram and Facebook, doesn’t have an AI-specific prescriptive policy but does have a general blanket policy against “faked, manipulated or transformed” audio and imagery for misinformation purposes. TikTok bans political ads altogether. The Associated Press reached out to X (formerly Twitter) last week for comment on the issue, but it seems the X team is a little busy just keeping the platform from falling apart and didn’t issue a comment. 

This is concerning. Right now, it’s still very much a wild west of sorts when it comes to the use of AI for political gains. I very much appreciate any proactive efforts, even by tech companies, because to me, it shows they’re thinking about the future – and not just capturing audiences in the present. 

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

YouTube hatches plan to protect your favorite musicians from AI copycats

YouTube announced that it’s working with Universal Music Group (UMG) to create a new program that would ensure artists and rights holders would be properly compensated for AI music.

The program, called YouTube’s Music AI Incubator, will create a partnership with music industry talent like artists, songwriters, and producers to decide on how to proceed with the advent of AI music. According to YouTube, “In 2023 alone, there have been more than 1.7 billion views of videos related to AI tools on YouTube.” And the video hosting and streaming site is interested in harnessing that level of viewership.

UMG was most likely chosen as the first partner for this problem because of its reservations toward AI, most likely due to the issue of music being fed into algorithms to train it and then recreated into new songs without compensating any of the artists involved. 

And while UMG cracked down on AI music on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube through copyright strikes, pulling songs, and filtering out AI tracks, it also entered a partnership with artificial intelligence music company Endel earlier in 2023 to create AI-assisted music. This shows that it does have a willingness to work with AI, but on its terms.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

Balancing rights with progress

According to Rolling Stone, UMG repeatedly stated that there’s potential for AI to assist artists in the song-making process. Music industry stakeholders, however, should draw a hard line on practices that infringe on artists' intellectual property and draw ears away from ‘real’ human-produced music.

It seems that YouTube also understands that desire to both use AI as a tool to assist artists, as well as set up structures that would guarantee permission and compensation for any music used to train these AI models. The official blog post discusses how YouTube has balanced protecting the rights of copyright holders with users over the years, as well as its content ID that “ensures rights holders get paid for use of their content and has generated billions for the industry over the years.”

YouTube also noted its existing policies that protect against “technically manipulated content” that could be used to mislead users or make false claims. And it’ll work to apply new standards to make sure AI isn’t used for “trademark and copyright abuse, misinformation, spam, and more.”

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan stated that “I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity of AI to supercharge creativity around the world, but recognize that YouTube and the promise of AI will only be successful if our partners are successful.” We’ll see how much that statement holds true, depending on the success of this program.

You might also like

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Adobe Express adds Firefly AI to its free plan for next level creativity

The all-in-one creative suite Adobe Express is getting a wave of new features; chief among them is the introduction of the Adobe Firefly generative AI.

With Firefly being added, you will be able to create “custom image and text effects” using nothing more than a simple text prompt. The official trailer displays these tools in action as it showing the steps of how to create a poster for a neighborhood event. Firefly is used to change the basic lettering of a short phrase into a “purple gloss balloon” font. It can also be used to generate decorative backgrounds for posters. 

So it's nothing groundbreaking or anything that will blow your mind, but it is a nice addition to the Express toolbox. The best part is it’s available on the free version of Adobe Express, meaning anybody can take the AI feature out for a spin. 

We do want to warn you to not expect too much from this rendition of Firefly. Like a lot of other free image generators, the results can look rather nightmarish, especially when they involve people. It’s nowhere on the same level as Generative Fill on Photoshop. We recommend keeping things simple, like throwing in graphical flourishes, if you ever decide to try out the Express AI.

The company states the prompts support over 100 languages including French, German, Japanese, Spanish, as well as Brazilian Portuguese. Something we found a little funny is how Adobe clarifies that the content Firefly generates is “designed to be safe for commercial use.” Given how several companies with AIs are currently being sued over copyright issues, it looks like the Photoshop-developer felt the need to offer some reassurance to its customers. 

Notable non-AI features

The update introduces a lot of other non-AI tools. For the sake of brevity, we’re just going to focus on the more notable ones. 

For instance, you have Quick Actions for faster editing. These actions can remove the background in images, immediately convert a video into a GIF, edit PDFs, and “animate a character using just audio”. That last one is fittingly called Animate from Audio which will have “characters come to life” as their bodies automatically sync up to recorded dialogue. It takes some of the busy work out of animating the finer details.

Adobe is also introducing an all-in-one editor consisting of various design elements and pre-made templates for social media platforms. So if you want to make videos for TikTok or Instagram but don’t know how to start, the editor can help you out tremendously. 


Everything you see here is currently available on Adobe Express for desktop. A full list detailing each feature can be found on the official website. The company says it has plans to bring the update to the mobile app soon, but declined to give an exact date for the future patch in its announcement. 

It is great to see Adobe offer some of its latest tech for free. Photoshop can be very expensive. If you’re looking for other options, check out TechRadar’s list of the best Photoshop alternatives for 2023

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Google Maps is getting a better Immersive View to help you plan trips

Google Maps is getting a big boost to its impressive Immersive View Mode to help you plan routes and trips using its bird's-eye view.

Announced at Google I/O 2023, which you can follow at our Google I/O 2023 liveblog, Google Maps Immersive View for routes will bring you a 3D view of your planned journey – for example, a bike ride or drive. This will give you a clearer real-world view of the neighborhoods you're going through, plus other information like traffic, air quality, temperature and more.

This all sounds a lot more useful than Google Maps' traditional overhead view, and could also be a very helpful tool for planning photography trips. But given that many of us are still waiting for the first version of Immersive View to roll out, it may be a while before you can start using it to plan trips.

A Google Maps Immersive View map showing a city

(Image credit: Google)

Google says it will begin rolling the feature out for a few cities this summer (in other words, between now and August), and will eventually cover 15 cities “by the end of the year”. These will include Los Angeles, New York, Miami, London, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Seattle, and Venice.

We've previously called Google Maps Immersive View a “next-gen Street View”. That's because it uses a combination of Street View and aerial imagery to give you digital recreations of cities in Google Maps, complete with real-time information. 

A Google Maps Immersive View map showing a city

(Image credit: Google)

The fact that this is all coming to route planning, rather than just tourist attractions in major cities, is great news, and should make piecing together journey plans a lot more intuitive. 

Combine this with Indoor Live View, a separate feature that displays AR arrows over your real-world view, and Maps will soon become an even bigger essential for tourists and the perennially lost. 

But Apple Maps is also becoming a stronger rival thanks to features like Flyover view, and we'll want to see Immersive View roll out much quicker than it has done so far before declaring a Street View-sized success.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft’s ad plan for Windows 11 is its worst idea since Windows 8 – but all is not lost

Microsoft’s leaked plans to add even more ads into the Windows 11 Start menu has not gone down well, and the less-than-positive reaction could hopefully make the company think twice about implementing the change.

As we reported on March 29, Microsoft has added 'notifications for Microsoft accounts' into a new option update for Windows 11. Despite its rather coy-sounding name, many people saw this as meaning more adverts for Microsoft’s services, such as OneDrive.

However, as Neowin reports, a hidden setting has been spotted in Windows 11 build 23419 that allows you to turn off those adverts. This build of Windows 11 is only currently available to people who are signed up to the Windows Insiders programme to help test early versions of Windows 11, but it could hint that Microsoft is considering adding the option to an upcoming version of Windows 11 for everyone.

Good news and bad

The discovery of this setting could be seen as good news. It means that Microsoft may have anticipated that its move to add more adverts to the Windows 11 Start menu wouldn’t be popular, and decided that adding the option to turn ads off could address some people’s concerns.

Somewhere in the bowls of Microsoft, then, there may be a voice, no matter how faint, that’s saying “maybe we shouldn’t keep trying to push our services so aggressively onto our users.” That gives me hope that not all is lost.

However, it’s not all good news. For a start, when I say this option to turn off adverts is hidden – I mean really hidden. Not only is it supposed to be buried deep in the menus (you have to go to Settings > Personalization > Start), but it won’t even appear unless you use a third-party app called ‘ViveTool’ to make it appear.

Messing around with this app, and using the powerful Windows PowerShell application to make the option appear, isn’t recommended (visit Neowin’s page above for instructions if you are keen), and forcing this hidden option to appear and disable adverts could have unanticipated consequences.

Even if Microsoft doesn’t hide it so completely, it’s pretty obvious that Microsoft wants to have the adverts turned on by default, and hopes that many users won’t know how to turn them off.

We’ll keep an eye on how this develops, but if Microsoft keeps filling Windows 11 with adverts for services its users don’t want, we could soon see an even more vocal pushback against its plans.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft’s plan for Windows 11 dominance still has a big TPM problem

Is  Windows 11 being abandoned by gamers? That’s what it looks like on the face of it with the arrival of the latest Steam hardware survey, but there’s a lot more to those stats if you dig under the surface.

Valve’s survey for March shows that Windows 11 has dropped a massive 9.65% for operating system share among Steam gamers, leaving it on 22.41% (shedding almost a third of its hard-fought adoption figures, no less). Meanwhile, Windows 10 is up 11.62%.

Leading to the obvious question – what’s happening here, are folks leaving Windows 11 to revert to Windows 10? Well, no – there’s a strong clue as to what’s going on if you take a look at another part of the survey, namely the language used for the surveyed operating systems.

This shows a huge jump in ‘Simplified Chinese’ which represents 51.63% of the PCs surveyed in March (up 25.35% on the previous month). Whereas ‘English’ language installations have dropped to 22.83% (down a hefty 12.44%).

Of course, the Steam survey takes a sample of a whole different swathe of PCs (rigs whose owners have indicated they want to take part) every time around, which often accounts for variations in percentages. And a big change in the geographical focus of the survey, as seen here, is going to make a major difference no doubt – as we see with Windows 11 adoption.

We do have to consider the possibility that Valve’s March survey is flawed somehow, too – and perhaps the numbers of Chinese installations of Windows have been inflated. There have been theories about this in the past, contending that Valve is potentially misreading installations as Chinese (or that other factors could be at play, such as bots).

Interestingly, though, there’s other evidence of odd shifts in macOS and Linux, particularly Apple’s desktop platform which has dropped heavily.

Analysis: Untrusted Platform Modules?

The biggest impact is clearly that Windows 11 shift, and this makes sense for the Chinese market due to one obvious upgrade blocking factor – TPM.

In China there was a big fuss made when Windows 11 was wheeled out with its TPM requirement, because in that country, they use TCM chips instead – not trusting TPM. (Ironically, we suppose, as technically that makes them UPM or Untrusted Platform Modules).

At any rate, this was a big problem for Microsoft, what with TPM being a hard requirement for Window 11 in order to bolster security levels with the desktop OS. It’s something Microsoft has worked around for enterprise clients in China – that’s far too large a cash cow to ignore – but as for your average Chinese consumer, well, they’ve been left out in the cold. And they’re still shivering there as of 2023, something clearly illustrated by this latest Steam survey, in which the large influx of Chinese PCs has caused such a swing between Windows 11 and Windows 10.

In summary, then, no, gamers aren’t fleeing Windows 11 in droves, but Microsoft still has a big problem in the Chinese market when it comes to TPM and adoption of its newest OS. Clearly, Chinese users are not keen on trying to fudge an installation of Windows 11 without TPM (which is possible, but not recommended).

We weren’t sure what Microsoft was going to do regarding the consumer market in China back at the launch of Windows 11, and we still aren’t sure, but presumably, this is an issue that needs to be addressed at some stage.

Otherwise, Microsoft’s desktop OS dominance in China – a massive market where Windows currently accounts for 82.5% of PC operating systems as of March 2023, according to Statcounter, is surely going to be eroded. Remember, Windows 10 only has a couple of years of support left in the tank.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Microsoft has a new plan to make Edge better than Chrome

Microsoft Edge is going to make an effort to help you improve the browser with a new system of badges for add-ons.

Add-ons (also referred to as extensions) are little extras that can be bolted onto the browser to deliver all kinds of functionality, but clearly the trick to making Edge better with them is choosing good add-ons, and not bloat or poor-quality efforts (or even malicious ones in a worst-case scenario).

As MS Power User reports, what the new system delivers is a badge – a visual icon, present on the product description page and elsewhere – to show that any given browser extension is of a high enough quality to deserve that label. So in short, you know you’re getting something you can trust, and that will work well.

Microsoft says that it’ll soon start to experiment with testing extension badges in the Edge Addons Store (EAS). The company notes: “Edge is starting with a small-scale experiment and will begin to engage with the developer community to talk through the criterion and help them get acquainted with the badging process on EAS.”

Analysis: Another step in the right direction

Badges will also act as a carrot for devs to make better extensions, too. As Microsoft explains, developers will be encouraged to follow best practice guidelines when putting together their add-ons in order to try to qualify for a badge that’ll ensure their products are more likely to be used by Edge fans. So, it’s more likely that the extensions being made will be of a higher quality, broadly speaking, or at least that’s the hope.

There are quite a number of add-ons in the library available to Edge users at this point, so helping to sort the wheat from the chaff is definitely a good idea. According to Microsoft, there are almost 11,000 extensions for Edge at this point, and that’ll keep on growing, naturally.

It’s good to see the software giant taking more positive steps to try and improve Edge as a product. We’ve also glimpsed another innovative step in recent times, namely the integrated free VPN that’s been in testing (and has supposedly just reached release, at least for some Edge users).

All this is refreshing, primarily because advancing Edge with extra capabilities and fresh features is what we want to see, not experimenting with how more adverts can be jammed into Windows 11 to push Edge (let’s stop with that already, Microsoft, please).

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

WhatsApp gets a new way to quiz your friends and plan nights out

Group chats in WhatsApp are used for all sort of things, from giving ways for distant members of the family to keep in touch, to helping people in real-world clubs and groups to contact each other easily. While the ability to chat, send photos, have video calls and so on are great, what has been lacking is the ability to create polls.

But this is set to change. If you've been looking for an easy way to see which restaurant you and your friends should go to, a way to vote on which design is best for your company logo, or countless other things, group chats in WhatsApp look like they are going to be gaining the long-missing polling option.

Spotted in the iOS version of the WhatsApp app by the ever-reliable WABetaInfo, we can see glimpses of a rudimentary poll creation interface that can be used to pose a question to member of a group chat. At this stage it's not clear quite how polls will look, or how customizable they will be, but we do know that they will be end-to-end encrypted.

Not for the first time, WhatsApp finds itself playing catch-up here. As welcome as the impending arrival of polls is, it is something that rival messaging apps have offered for quite some time. This does not, however, detract from the usefulness of the feature in any way, and it is something that it sure to prove popular and will be well-used whenever it does finally roll out.

Polling opinion

While at the moment, the poll option is only visible in the beta version of the WhatsApp app for iOS, it would be quite surprising if the very same option did not also make its way to Android. That said, WhatsApp is no stranger to giving iOS and Android users the same options at different times.

And speaking of staggered rollouts, it seems that Android users could be in line to gain access to a WhatApp feature that is already available to iOS users. In the redesigned drawing editor, iOS users have been able to use a blur tool to obscure private information in photos, making sensitive data unintelligible

WABetaInfo has spotted the same tool popping up in beta versions of the Android app, bringing the two platforms closer together in terms of features. For both this bur tool and the up-coming polling option, there is no hint about when the rollout is planned, so it is just a case of waiting patiently for WhatsApp to continue development and then flip the necessary switch.

Via WABetaInfo

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Zendesk’s plan to acquire SurveyMonkey is officially dead

Zendesk's billion-dollar plan to acquire Momentive, which runs the popular SurveyMonkey tool, has failed after its own shareholders rejected the proposal. 

The deal was worth around $ 4.1 billion, with the news coming just days after the CRM giant turned down a $ 16 billion offer to be acquired by a consortium of private equity firms. 

“While we were excited by the potential of this transaction to transform the customer experience and create stockholder value, we respect and appreciate the perspectives of our stockholders,” said Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svanek. 

Foiled bid

In a blog post, Svanek explained a little more about what made Momentive an attractive target and Zendesk's future plans. Zendesk's business is sound, he said, but could've been augmented by Momentive. 

“We planned to acquire Momentive as a way to accelerate our ability to deliver the future of customer intelligence,” he wrote. “While we will not be moving forward with that acquisition, we remain as committed as ever to helping our customers get more value out of their data.” 

Investor hostility 

The deal was sunk largely by activist shareholders who opposed it. The Wall Street Journal reported that Jana Partners, which owns 3%, and Janus Henderson, which owns 5%, both opposed the deal. Jana called it a “reactive and impulsive decision”. 

Faced with scepticism from its own shareholders, spending $ 4.1 billion is an impossible ask. Shareholders voted against the deal on February 25. 

For Momentive, the decision is not ideal. “While we are disappointed that Zendesk stockholders did not vote to approve the transaction, we are confident in our go-forward strategy,” said Monentive CEO Zander Laurie. 

It remains to be seen what direction the two companies take but with intense pressure in the CRM market, Zendesk needs to find a bold new plan. 

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Google’s cookie replacement plan just passed a major hurdle

Google's plan to replace third-party cookies with its new Privacy Sandbox standards is one step closer to becoming a reality after receiving approval from the UK's competition regulator.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has announced that it has formally accepted the search giant's commitments regarding how it will develop its new standards in such a way that they don't impede competition or unfairly benefit Google's advertising business.

In a press release, chief executive at the CMA, Andrea Coscelli explained that while the regulator has approved Google's new set of standards, it will still be keeping a 'close eye' on the search giant as it develops these proposals, saying:

“The commitments we have obtained from Google will promote competition, help to protect the ability of online publishers to raise money through advertising and safeguard users’ privacy. While this is an important step, we are under no illusions that our work is done. We now move into a new phase where we will keep a close eye on Google as it continues to develop these proposals. We will engage with all market participants in this process, in order to ensure that Google is taking account of concerns and suggestions raised.”

Privacy Sandbox proposals

After abandoning its original FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) proposal, Google recently introduced a substitute called Google Topics that will serve ads to users based on broad interest categories as opposed to using granular and often more sensitive data collected by third-party cookies.

Now that the CMA has formally accepted the company's commitments, they have become legally binding and Google has said that it will apply them globally. As part of these commitments, the company will develop its Privacy Sandbox proposals in a way that's transparent and it will also publish test results.

Google has also confirmed that it won't remove third-party cookies from Chrome until the CMA gives the all clear that its new alternatives don't raise any competition concerns. At the same time, the search giant won't share data within its business in a way that is unfair and gives it an edge over its competitors.

There is still some time left until Google phases out third-party cookies in Chrome as the company plans to put its Privacy Sandbox standards in place by the end of next year. However, other browsers such as Firefox and Safari have already decided to block third-party cookies outright.

Via The Verge

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More