Japanese government uses AI to expose misinformation on Fukushima wastewater purge

By on 31/07/2023 | Updated on 01/08/2023
Laptop flagging fake news

The Japanese government is using artificial intelligence (AI) to scan social media for misinformation about its plan to release treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

On 11 March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the cooling systems of Fukushima No. 1 plant. This led to the meltdown of three reactors, causing continuous leakage of radioactive material.

Japan plans to release treated wastewater from the plant, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has given assurances to Japan’s neighbouring countries that the water due to be purged from the plant is safe.

However, Japan’s Foreign Ministry has since last year sought to tackle false online claims that the waste product contains radioactive materials that pose a danger to the environment.

Examples of claims picked up on social media included postings from sources in China citing “contaminated radioactive water” at the power plant.

The government’s efforts to counter misinformation about the wastewater treatment at the plant meanwhile include an animated video tweeted by the Foreign Ministry on 26 July. The video explained in a range of different languages (Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified & Traditional) and Korean) the safety precautions taken in the process.

The video explains how the water at the plant is purified to regulatory standards through an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). It goes on to explain that the water is diluted with seawater by 100 times its consistency before being released into the wider marine area.

The IAEA meanwhile released a report confirming the safety of the process, and Japanese prime mkinister Fumio Kishida has confirmed the plan to release the wastewater would go ahead.

Read more: CIA chief sets out era of US-China ‘strategic competition’ in AI and beyond

Info-wars escalate

In addition to claims about the plant made by China, the ministry used the AI tool to uncover what it called a “groundless” report by a South Korean online media source that one its top official gave a large political donation to the IAEA.

The use of AI to identify misinformation comes after William Burns, head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, said it would be a key battleground in the growing strategic competition between the US and China.

Describing AI as “the most profound transformation of espionage tradecraft since the Cold War”, Burns said in the annual Ditchley Lecture that the world had entered a post-Cold War era that required Western governments to work together to secure “a world that is more free, open, secure and prosperous”.

Governments around the world have been looking at the various ways in which AI can benefit their operations.

Examples include Australia’s Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) and the UK Cabinet Office both issuing guidance to public servants around the use of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, Google Bard and Bing AI. And Global Government Forum research has found that one in ten Canadian public servants are already using AI for work purposes.

Read more: ChatGPT a threat to national security, warns Pentagon AI chief

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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