Cybersecurity

Tech-fueled disinformation is an election-year problem

“There could be up to 2 billion people voting in 50 countries around the world this year,” expert says.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.

Trust, but verify—especially when you’re coming face-to-face with disinformation in an election year.

That’s one of the things about the upcoming global election landscape for 2024 that RSA Conference chief strategy officer Darren Shou told IT Brew he’s worried about. Shou said that trust in elections is in question, potentially endangering democracy and freedom the world over.

“There could be up to 2 billion people voting in 50 countries around the world this year,” Shou said. “So, this is a worldwide problem.”

Checking in. Trust and transparency are essential for the democratic process, Shou continued, and that means that IT leaders need to step up. He likened the threat surface to the old days of hacking—when the number of hackers surged as reverse-engineered scripts proliferated.

“It was a small group, and they could execute these really sophisticated attacks and high assurance systems,” Shou said. “But then you had the script kiddies who got the tools but didn’t happen to have those skills.”

Now, disinformation actors who have access to a great number of tactics and the ability to use tech, often assisted by AI, act to spread “gasoline on a fire of a disinformation machine,” as Shou put it.

Solutions. As Tech Brew reported in November 2023, some groups like the California Institute for Technology and Democracy (CITED) are working to slow the usage of AI in the spreading of disinformation. Nonpartisan government accountability watchdog California Common Cause’s Executive Director Jonathan Mehta Stein said at an event about CITED that possible policy solutions could include digital watermarking, deepfake labeling, and algorithmic transparency.

On May 26, the Washington Post reported that worldwide election officials are working on “pre-bunking” misinformation to get ahead of threats to the voting system. Wisconsin Elections Commission Public Information Officer Riley Vetterkind told the Post that the prophylactic approach is essential because “by the time the disinformation is out there, we’re really not going to be able to convince a lot of people.”

Despite his concern over trust, Shou doesn’t believe the solution lies in restricting what can or can’t be shared in a world of synthetic information. Rather, he believes that education and awareness are key.

“There are advantages to all these technologies, and some of them have some bad sides, too,” Shou said. “So, make [people] aware that this can happen [and] educate them about what they can do about it.”

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.