Japan’s Foreign Ministry plans to build AI-based analysis system for overseas developments

The Foreign Ministry plans to use artificial intelligence to better assess international situations, building an AI-based system to collect and analyze vast amounts of online information.

The ministry intends to use the system to identify unstable international situations early on, for such purposes as protecting Japanese nationals, and to detect moves to spread false information. A data analysis contractor is to be selected by this summer, with the system to go into operation as early as January 2023.

The envisioned system will automatically search and collect overseas data on the internet, including social media postings, reports from research institutions and media reports. Deep learning and other technology would produce analyses at the direction of the ministry.

For example, by examining information that indicates the spread of emotions such as anger and sorrow, the system would detect signs of worsening situations, including acts of terrorism and uprisings.

The system will supplement human intelligence-gathering by Japanese diplomatic establishments overseas and other organizations. The aim is to enable quick decision-making by combining the analysis of enormous amounts of information, a process that humans cannot undertake, with the findings of human intelligence operations.

To establish and operate the system, the ministry plans to inject about ¥640 million over a five-year period from this fiscal year. Government officials said similar methods have already been introduced in such countries as the United States, Britain and China.

One challenge will be how to ensure accurate analyses, as the internet is filled with false information — a situation illustrated by Russia’s release of erroneous information about its invasion of Ukraine.

The ministry will operate the system cautiously in its early days, comparing analysis results with what happens in reality and working to enhance accuracy.

By analyzing in detail the unnatural spread of information, the ministry seeks to become able to judge the authenticity of information and identify sources of false reports.

A worsening of the international situation could threaten Japan’s economic security and trigger international conflicts. Through the envisioned system, the government hopes to better detect national security risks.