In Retrospect

Combating misinformation ahead of 2024 elections

As more than 2 billion voters across 50 countries head to the polls against a backdrop of unforeseen, novel challenges alongside known threats, leading AI organisations are working to prevent abuse, provide transparency and improve access to accurate voting information

Combating misinformation ahead of 2024 elections

More than 50 countries that are home to half the planet’s population are due to hold national elections in 2024, but the number of citizens exercising the right to vote is not unalloyed good news. The year could test even the most robust democracies and strengthen the hands of leaders with authoritarian leanings.

In places as varied as Russia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, El Salvador and South Africa, elections for leaders and national legislatures will have huge implications for economies, international relations and prospects for peace in a volatile world.

A possible rematch between President Joe Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump, looms large on the election calendar. A potential Trump victory in November is perhaps the greatest global wild card.

As countries around the world prepare for elections this year, OpenAI has outlined its plan to combat misinformation, with a focus on promoting transparency around the source of information.

The company said its teams are working to prevent abuse, provide transparency on AI-generated content, and improve access to accurate voting information.

“We have a cross-functional effort dedicated to election work, bringing together expertise from our safety systems, threat intelligence, legal, engineering, and policy teams to quickly investigate and address potential abuse,” OpenAI said in a recent blog post.

The company added that it is working to prevent relevant abuse — such as misleading “deepfakes”, scaled influence operations, or chatbots impersonating candidates.

“Prior to releasing new systems, we red team them, engage users and external partners for feedback, and build safety mitigations to reduce the potential for harm,” OpenAI said.

To provide transparency around AI-generated content, the company said it is working on several provenance efforts.

The Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity’s digital credentials — an approach that encodes details about the content’s provenance using ‘cryptography’ — for images generated by DALL·E 3 is all set to be introduced soon.

Initiatives such as the Partnership on AI are also bringing together stakeholders from across sectors to develop best practices and guidelines for the responsible use of AI in addressing misinformation.

OpenAI is also experimenting with a provenance classifier — a new tool for detecting images generated by DALL·E.

As the US gears up for the Presidential election later this year, the maker of ChatGPT mentioned that they are working with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the nation’s oldest non-partisan professional organisation for public officials.

“ChatGPT will direct users to, the authoritative website on US voting information when asked certain procedural election-related questions — for example, where to vote,” the company explained.

With the spread of misinformation and disinformation becoming a major concern for governments, tech companies, and the general public, this problem is especially pervasive during election cycles when false information can influence voter opinions and decisions. As we look ahead to the 2024 elections and beyond, it is crucial to consider how AI can be leveraged to combat misinformation and ensure the integrity of the democratic process.

The proliferation of misinformation is facilitated by the rapid and widespread dissemination of information through social media and other online platforms. False narratives, misleading content and outright lies can quickly gain traction and reach a large audience, posing a significant threat to the democratic process. In response, there has been a growing recognition of the need for effective tools and strategies to identify and counter misinformation.

AI, with its ability to process large amounts of data and identify patterns and trends, holds great promise in the fight against misinformation. One of the key ways in which AI can be utilised is through the development of algorithms that can automatically detect and flag potentially false or misleading content. These algorithms can analyse the language, source, and context of information to assess its credibility and reliability. Additionally, AI can be used to track the spread of misinformation and identify its origins, allowing for targeted interventions to limit its impact.

Furthermore, AI can be employed to enhance fact-checking efforts by providing real-time verification of claims and statements. By training AI models to recognise and evaluate the accuracy of information, fact-checkers can more efficiently and effectively assess the validity of content, debunking false claims and providing users with accurate information.

In addition to automated detection and verification, AI can also be used to empower users to critically evaluate the information they encounter. By integrating AI-powered tools into social media platforms and other online spaces, users can receive prompts and suggestions that encourage them to consider the credibility of the content they are consuming. This can help individuals develop a more discerning approach to information and reduce the likelihood of being misled by false or misleading content.

While the potential for AI to combat misinformation is substantial, it is not without its challenges. Developing effective AI systems requires access to vast amounts of data, as well as the expertise to train and refine the algorithms. Moreover, AI systems must be carefully designed to minimise bias and ensure that they do not inadvertently perpetuate false information or unfairly target certain sources. Additionally, the rapid evolution of misinformation tactics means that AI systems must be continually updated and adapted to address new and emerging threats.

Despite these challenges, there is growing momentum behind the use of AI to combat misinformation ahead of the 2024 elections. Governments, tech companies, and civil society organisations are increasingly investing in AI-powered solutions to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process.

At the same time, there is a need for greater collaboration and coordination among these stakeholders to ensure that AI solutions are effectively deployed and integrated into existing processes. This includes sharing data and insights, as well as fostering a culture of transparency and accountability around the development and implementation of AI systems.

Looking ahead to the 2024 elections, it is clear that the threat of misinformation will continue to loom large. In response, there is a critical need to leverage the capabilities of AI to identify, verify, and counter false information. Through automated detection, real-time fact-checking, and user empowerment, AI has the potential to help inoculate the public against the damaging effects of misinformation and ensure that voters have access to accurate and reliable information.

Meet Taiwan’s next President William Lai, upon whom the fate of US-China relations — and global security over the coming few years — is now thrust.

The 64-year-old, currently Taiwan’s vice-president, has led the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to a historic third term in power, a first for any party since Taiwan became a democracy in 1996.

For now, the capital of Taipei will feel the calm while for Lai, though, the sense of victory will soon be overshadowed by a looming, extended period of uncertainty over Beijing’s next move with the latter openly laying bare its disapproval of Lai, whom Beijing considers the poster boy of the Taiwanese independence movement.

India, the world’s most populous country, is due to hold a general election by midyear that could, in all probability, bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi a third consecutive term.

Modi is hailed as a leader who has cleaned up the government after decades of corruption and made India an emerging global power.

There’s little doubt about who will win Russia’s presidential election in March. President Vladimir Putin faces only token opposition in his bid for a fifth term. His main rivals are in prison, in exile, dead or disqualified.

It’s a similar story in Belarus, led by President Alexander Lukashenko. On February 25, the country is expected to hold its first parliamentary election since Lukashenko’s government crushed protests against the Putin ally’s disputed 2020 reelection. Thousands of opponents are in prison or have fled the country.

Another leader seeking to retain power is El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele, who has won widespread support since he used emergency powers for an aggressive crackdown on violent street gangs.

Mexico is poised to elect its first female President on June 2 — either former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, a protege of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador; or a former opposition senator, Xóchitl Gálvez. The winner will govern a country with daunting drug-related violence and an increasingly influential military.

Voters in Indonesia will choose a successor to President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, on February 14.

In South Africa, a legislative election is due between May and August, with a struggling economy, crippling power blackouts and an unemployment rate of nearly 32 per cent as the political backdrop. Overcoming voter disillusionment will be a challenge for the long-dominant African National Congress.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the world’s longest-serving female leader, recently won a fourth successive term in an election that opposition parties boycotted and that was preceded by violence.

Pakistan’s February 8 parliamentary election is being contested by established politicians, under the eye of the country’s powerful military.

Three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Muslim League, has been allowed by election officials on the ballot after his corruption convictions were overturned. Also running is the People’s Party leader, former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a popular opposition figure, is imprisoned, and has been blocked from contesting.

However, most AI tools that could have a considerable influence in the election exercise are currently only in the process of being rolled out, and heavily dependent on users reporting bad actors. Given that AI is itself a rapidly changing tool that regularly throws up surprises with beautiful poetry and erroneous statements, it’s not clear how well this will work to combat misinformation in the election season. For now, the best bet is to question every piece of information that seems unrealistic and too good to be true as more than two billion voters across 50 countries head to the polls in a record-breaking number of elections around the world.

Views expressed are personal

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