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Russia and China benefit from US infighting, says David Sanger
Russia And China benefit from US infighting, says David Sanger | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer

Russia and China benefit from US infighting, says David Sanger

On GZERO World, David Sanger, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author of "New Cold Wars," argues that while China seeks to become the top global power by 2049, Russia, lacking such aspirations, acts as a disruptor on the international stage. Sanger also notes how both countries have an interest in fueling instability in the U.S., amplifying chaos to distract American focus from their strategic ambitions. He tells Ian Bremmer, "China wants to be the top dog by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution and of Mao declaring the state. And they want to be the top dog of something worth being the top dog of. The Russians have no hope for that. So their only source of power is as a disruptor, and that's the friction between these two that may come into play."

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How to protect elections in the age of AI
VOD - Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI

Half of the world’s population will have the chance to head to the polls this year in dozens of critical elections worldwide. These votes, which will shape policy and democracy for years to come, come amid light-speed development in artificial intelligence. As Eurasia Group noted in its 2024 Top Risk entitled “Ungoverned AI,” generative AI could be used by domestic and foreign actors – we’re looking at you, Russia – to impact campaigns and undermine trust in democracy.

To meet the moment, GZERO Media, on the ground at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, held a Global Stage discussion on Feb. 17 entitled “Protecting Elections in the Age of AI.” We spoke with Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Fiona Hill, senior fellow for the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings; Eva Maydell, an EU parliamentarian and a lead negotiator of the EU Chips Act and Artificial Intelligence Act; Kersti Kaljulaid, the former president of Estonia; with European correspondent Maria Tadeo moderating. The program also featured interviews with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, and Benedikt Franke, CEO and vice-chair of the Munich Security Conference. These thought leaders and experts discussed the implications of the rapid rise of AI amid this historic election year.

The group started by delving into what Bremmer has referred to as the “Voldemort” of years surrounding elections, to look at how election interference and disinformation have evolved since 2016.

“This is the year that people have been very concerned about, but have kind of hoped that they could push off. It's not just because there are elections all over the world and trust in institutions is deteriorating, it's also because the most powerful country in the world, and it's not becoming less powerful, is also one of the most politically dysfunctional,” says Bremmer, referring to the US.

The 2024 US presidential election “is maximally distrust-laden,” says Bremmer, adding that it’s “really hard to have a free and fair election in the US that all of its population” believes is legitimate.

And the worry is that AI could complicate the landscape even further.

Hill agreed that there’s cause for concern but underscored that people should not “panic” to a point where they’re “paralyzed” and “not taking action.”

“Panic is not an option given the stakes,” says Hill, adding, “There are negative aspects of all of this, but there's also the kind of question that we have to grapple with is how when legitimate competitors or opposition movements that otherwise beleaguered decide to use AI tools, that then also has an impact.”

There’s no doubt that AI can be used for nefarious purposes. Deepfakes can fool even the most discerning eye. Disinformation has already been rampant across the internet in recent election cycles and helped sow major divisions in many countries well before AI tools — far more sophisticated than your average meme — were widely available.

“With new tools and products that use generative AI, including from a company like ours, somebody can create a very realistic video, audio, or image. Just think about the different ways it can be used. Somebody can use it and they can make a video of themself, and they can make clear in the video that this is AI generated. That is one way a political candidate, even one who is in prison can speak,” says Smith, alluding to ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent use of AI from behind bars.

Along these lines, there are many serious, valid concerns about the impact AI can have on elections and democracy more generally — particularly at a time when people are exhibiting rising levels of distrust in key institutions.

“It's very important to acknowledge a lot of the important developments that AI and emerging tech can bring to support our economic development,” says Maydell, adding, “but in the same time, especially this year, we need to be very sober about some of those threats that are in a way threatening the very fabric of our democratic societies.

As Maydell noted, this evolving new technology can be harnessed for good and bad. Can AI be used as a tool to protect candidates and the integrity of the electoral process?

A number of major tech companies, including Microsoft, signed an accord at the Munich Security Conference on Friday to help thwart and combat AI-related election interference.

“It's all about trying to put ourselves in a position, not to solve this problem completely, I don't think that's possible, but to manage this new reality in a way that will make a difference,” says Smith. The Microsoft president says the accord brings the tech sector together to preserve the authenticity of content, including by working to detect deepfakes and providing candidates with a mechanism to report any that are created about them.

“We'll work together to promote transparency and public education. This clearly is going to require a lot of work with civil society, with others around the world to help the public be ready,” says Smith.

But is enough being done?

“It's good that both politicians and the companies and society as a whole now has a better understanding where this is all leading us and we are collectively taking actions,” says Kaljulaid, but this is just a “first step” and “next steps need to follow.”

A balance will need to be found between legislating the challenges presented by AI and giving tech companies space to collaborate, innovate and address problems on their own.

“Democracy is always in jeopardy. Every generation has to answer the call to defend it,” says Smith, adding, “Now it's our turn. It's our turn as a generation of people to say that technology always changes, but democracy is a value that we hold timeless. So let's do what it takes to defend it, to preserve and promote it.”

The livestream was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, and technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

Live premiere today at 12 pm ET: Can we use AI to protect elections?

Today at 12 pm ET/9 am PT/6 pm CET, watch the live premiere of our Global Stage discussion at the Munich Security Conference, "Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI." 2024 is truly the “Year of Elections” with more than 75 nations heading to the polls, affecting roughly half the world’s population. But an ongoing decline of trust in institutions plus an explosion of AI tools and deep fake technologies could create a dangerous environment. Our panel will examine how AI can also be a way to protect consumers and candidates, helping to shore up the integrity of the electoral process. Can AI be used to quickly flag and even eliminate online lies and misinformation?

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Jess Frampton

China and Swift: Dual threats?

This is the year of elections, with half the world’s population set to vote in more than 65 elections, so it’s no wonder there’s a lot of urgency over one issue: election interference.

Right now, Canada is holding a critical independent inquiry into election interference from China and Russia and yet, they naively missed the most disruptive election conspiracy mastermind of them all: Taylor Swift.

Or not.

In the department of “Weapons of Mass Distraction,” Swift merits a brief diversion before we get to China and Russia. As we covered in the Daily this morning, there is a double album of MAGA paranoia around China and Russia – sorry, I keep doing that … around Taylor Swift – and her plot to tilt the US election to Joe Biden.

One-time Republican presidential candidate-turned-Trump Hype Man Vivek Ramaswamy courageously exposed how Swift and her beau Travis Kelce, the future Hall of Fame tight end from the Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs, have it all cooked up. Working alongside, um … Deep Football and the Democrats, Swift and Kelce have, apparently, hatched an anti-Trump football plot.

“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” Ramaswamy tweeted out knowingly, “and I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.” What? No way! Vivek doubled down on his doubters, with one of those cryptic-conspiracy bro things that sound smart but then you realize you have no idea what he actually means.

“What the MSM calls a “conspiracy theory” is often nothing more than an amalgam of incentives hiding in plain sight,” Ramaswamy tweeted. “Once you see that, the rest becomes pretty obvious.” To which Elon Muskretweeted, “Exactly.”

Exactly what is in plain sight? That there is a Super Bowl-Swiftian election interference plot? That a billionaire musician, her record company, the NFL, Travis Kelce, and Joe Biden all got together to fix the outcome of the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl in order to support the Democrats and undermine Donald Trump?

The Swift-Kelce-NFL-Biden fever dream has been widely repeated and reported on, but it has zero merit, as we covered this morning. Swift has a history of supporting Democrats in places like Tennessee in 2018. In other words, like millions of people, she supports a political party. That is not a conspiracy, that’s called “voting.” Many other celebrities support Trump and Republicans. That is also called voting.

Yes, Travis Kelce does vaccine ads for a pharmaceutical company. Again, not a conspiracy against Trump, but the choice of a man who, like hundreds of millions of people, believes in the science of vaccines – and in making a buck. It’s no more complicated than that. This isn’t a plot for election interference, as folks like Ramaswamy allege; it’s a paranoid new deflection from the very real act of attempted election interference that was the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

But foreign election interference is troubling, and Canada’s inquiry merits attention. The independent “Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions” – catchy name, I know, so let’s go with the “Hogue Inquiry,” after the commissioner Justice Marie-Josée Hogue, who is overseeing it all — kicked off this week. It is looking into allegations that China and Russia interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Just this morning, Global News reported that it had obtained a secret briefing note from Canada’s spy agency CSIS that says China attempted to interfere with the last two Federal elections. “We know that the PRC sought to clandestinely and deceptively influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections,” Stewart Bell writes in his superb story today.

That’s exactly why Canada’s allies are watching this case so closely, especially in the US. “Much of the attention about foreign interference in American democratic processes has focused on Russia and its malicious online activities,” Stephanie Carvin, a Carleton University professor and former CSIS national security analyst, tells me. “But Canada presents an important case study in how other state actors, namely (but not exclusively) China, conduct such operations. This includes the harassment of dissidents, alleged interference in electoral nomination processes, and targeting of politicians. Western countries need to observe and learn from the experience of other countries, which may impact them one day.”

Despite the recent assurances from President Xi Jinping to President Joe Biden that China will not interfere in the election, FBI Director Christopher Wraywarned a House Committee on China this week that Beijing has a very sophisticated plan to disrupt the upcoming election and also hack critical infrastructure.

Other countries, like Russia and Iran, are playing copycat. “Unfortunately, malicious actors are learning from one another, and Western countries should expect more foreign interference in the future,” Carvin says. “I am particularly worried about artificially generated content ‘deepfakes’ that may alter perceptions of current events and politicians.”

Canada, the US, and its allies are arming up for a war on the heart of democracy: elections. “If there is a good news story here, it is that countries are not going through this alone,” Carvin tells me. “By working together, states can better inform themselves about what is happening around the world, to make their democratic institutions more resilient.”

Big picture? It might be best not to confuse Swiftian halftime entertainment with political election interference. Both are worth paying attention to, but they play in very different arenas.

FILE PHOTO: People gather at the airport holding Chinese and Canadian flags while waiting for the arrival of Chinese President Hu Jintao in Vancouver, British Columbia, September 16, 2005.

REUTERS/Andy Clark

Did China meddle in Canada’s elections?

Canada’s long-awaited public inquiry into foreign interference in the electoral process started this week and, in an election year in the United States, it will be monitored closely in Washington.

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AI in 2024: Will democracy be disrupted?
2024 in AI: Democracy in the spotlight | GZERO AI

AI in 2024: Will democracy be disrupted?

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Fellow, Stanford Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, and former European Parliamentarian, co-hosts GZERO AI, our new weekly video series intended to help you keep up and make sense of the latest news on the AI revolution. In this episode, she shares her reflection on AI in 2023.

Hello, this is GZERO AI. My name is Marietje Schaake. It's the end of the year, and so it's the time for lists. As we see so many top fives, top threes, top tens of the key developments in AI, I thought I would just share a couple of reflections. Not list them, just look back on this year, which was remarkable in so many ways.

We saw a huge explosion of discussion around AI governance. Are companies, the ones that can take on all this responsibility of assessing risk, or deciding when to push new research onto the market, or as illustrated by the dramatic saga at OpenAI, are companies not in a good position to make all these decisions themselves and to sort of design checks and balances all in-house? Governments agree. I don't think they want to let these decisions to the big companies, and so they are really stepping up across the board and across the globe. We've only recently, in the last days of this year, seen the political agreement around the EU AI Act, a landmark law that will really set a standard in the democratic world for governing AI in a binding fashion. But there were also a lot of voluntary code of conduct, as we saw at the G7, statements that came out of the AI Safety Summit like the Bletchley Park Declaration, and there was the White House's executive order to add to the many initiatives that were taken in an attempt to make sure that AI developments at least respect the laws that are on the book, if not make new ones where needed.

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How AI threatens elections
AI & global elections: What role will emerging technologies play? | Global Stage | GZERO Media

How AI threatens elections

According to a new report from Ginny Badanes of Microsoft’s Democracy Forward Initiative, two billion people will have the opportunity to vote in national elections over the next 14 months. So many elections in multiple consequential countries promise authoritarians who want to degrade democracy are gearing up to launch cyberattacks to destabilize and spread doubt in the free world.

And artificial intelligence makes the threat more severe than ever before. “We are in a moment where a new technology is emerging — generative AI — and there are a lot of concerns about what that is going to mean, particularly for information operations.”

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AI, election integrity, and authoritarianism: Insights from Maria Ressa
AI challenges in upholding democracy - insights from Maria Ressa | Global Stage | GZERO Media

AI, election integrity, and authoritarianism: Insights from Maria Ressa

There’s a big, big problem with using AI to defend democracy, says Rappler CEO Maria Ressa: “You need to feed it.”

“AI as a defense tool will always be behind the eight-ball because it is reactive," she said, requiring terabytes of data at a time to pick out the patterns that betray malicious actors. By the time they are detected, they can flood social media with lies that amplify ordinary citizens’ fear when they don’t know what to believe.

Ressa spoke in a GZERO Global Stage livestream discussion with Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media, Eléonore Caroit, Vice-President of the French Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith, moderated by Julien Pain, journalist and host of Franceinfo, live from the 2023 Paris Peace Forum.

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