In a digital climate that is bogged down by fake news stories, it can be tricky to differentiate between what’s real and what isn’t real. Such is the case with a recent story that is gaining traction but is baseless: a claim that four AI robots attacked scientists in Japan. This alleged story was broken in Japan itself as an example of what fake news looks like, but it was quickly shared and passed off as a genuine news story.
The situation came to be at the end of 2018 when users of social media started spreading this story alongside a short video. A presentation was given by an environmentalist in February 2018 as a part of a conference. During this conference, the presenter, Linda Moulton, spoke about the dangers of AI as well as alien abductions and encounters.
Her presentation began with a statement about how AI robots made for military use in Japan killed four of the scientists working on the project by shooting bullets at them. At the end of her presentation, she claimed that it was news that would never be made public, sparking ideas of a conspiracy.
Outside of this woman’s claims, there have been no other sources corroborating this same story. Many believe that this was just a story to get the attention of the audience she was speaking to. This is especially plausible, as she is known for promoting conspiracy theories, often of her own devising. Unfortunately, this is a rather common occurrence. Someone will state something as fact, no matter how implausible, and because it is intriguing, it is immediately spread as real news.
Even before and after that presentation, several major media outlets reported cases of AI killing other humans. Such accounts included reported AI-equipped drones that may have gunned down militias in Libya in March of 2020. In another case, a newly developed Turkish drone was thought to be able to locate, track down and kill a human target based only on facial recognition.
In a report published by a UN Security Council panel, it was noted that the drone used in this case was made by a military company that was helping in the civil war taking place. Such a publication was the first time that such information was made known to the world that an attack had been carried out entirely without human intervention. There have been other such instances of this happening, but it was never within the context of robots going rogue and killing people for no reason.
Regardless, even with the clear absurdity of this alleged news, the information has spread far and wide. People from all over the world have been searching the news headlines hoping to turn up more information about this event that did not happen. It is a clear example of just how quickly lies are able to spread without any sort of fact-checking taking place beforehand just because they are inflammatory and interesting.