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Blog: 91传媒 expert explores challenges AI poses to democracy

Posted Wednesday 5 June 2024

Blog: 91传媒 expert explores challenges AI poses to democracy

Dr Peter Finn, a multi-award-winning lecturer from 91传媒's Department of Criminology, Politics and Sociology, is chairing an event on June 10 that will explore the intersection between democratic politics and the possibilities and challenges posed by artificial intelligence.

The talk is part of the , which addresses issues facing the US and UK in domestic, trans-Atlantic and global contexts.

Here, Dr Finn reflects on some of the issues that will be discussed at the event, taking place at Kingston University's Town House.

The UK is gearing up for an election on the United States of America's Independence Day, and democracy in the UK, the USA, and elsewhere is being impacted by artificial intelligence. On June 10, I will be joined by researcher, broadcaster and author Stephanie Hare, and writer and presenter Timandra Harkness, to discuss some of the implications of artificial intelligence to the democratic world.

In 2024 large swathes of the planet vote in elections of all types. To pick just a few, there have been elections for mayors of major UK cities and regions, there is a general election in India with results due in early June, European Union elections, a US presidential election in November, and now a UK General Election on July 4. It is enough to make even the most avid election watcher breathless.

Dr Peter Finn, a multi-award-winning Lecturer in the Department of Criminology, Politics and Sociology, is chairing an event on June 10.Dr Peter Finn, a multi-award-winning Lecturer in the Department of Criminology, Politics and Sociology, is chairing the event on June 10.

I am interested in multiple elements of democracy, including US and UK elections and how oversight of national security operations occurs in a democratic context. At all levels, these elections intersect with societies grappling with the challenges posed, and opportunities offered, by artificial intelligence. How will tools, clearly evolving at high speed, that offer great promise but whose limitations are obvious, impact elections? Furthermore, do democratic systems have sufficient guardrails?

As each election occurs, the relationship between how votes are cast and artificial intelligence reflects the society in which voting is taking place, as well as the international reach and influence of the technology companies that sit behind some artificial intelligence tools. These tools could, for instance, be used by smaller campaigns to level the playing field with larger better funded ones. Equally they could likewise be used to spread misinformation or to create deep fakes. As such, there is no one size fits all model for how elections are, or will be, influenced by artificial intelligence.

One of the speakers at the event is Stephanie Hare, she researches technology, politics, history, and the world of work, sharing her findings through writing, broadcast and keynote speeches including BBC global television programme . Her most recent book, Technology Is Not Neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics, was selected as one of the best books of summer 2022 by the Financial Times. She argues that election interference, both from within and without, has always threatened democracy, but AI turbocharges this threat by undermining our confidence in photographs, videos and audio content.

"Even greater than the risk of manipulating voters' beliefs and choices is the risk of them losing trust in elections altogether and declining to vote as a result," she said. "Tech companies and media organisations will need to do everything possible to ensure the integrity of information, including requiring clear labelling when AI has been used to generate content – or even banning it entirely."

In order to safeguard democracy, an informed citizenry is imperative. Rather than take as read the hyperbolic claims about either the perils or potential of artificial intelligence, the event on 10 June will give a nuanced insight, and the sense of agency it can provide, from those working in journalism and academia.

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