How tech will impact the biggest election year in history

In the latest episode of For Tech’s Sake, we speak to Liz Carolan about what could be seen as a ‘make or break year’ for tech and democracy.

In 2024, more than 2bn people will go to the polls in more than 65 elections around the world, essentially making it the biggest election year in history.

In recent years, we have seen several ways in which tech has played a role in influencing the democratic process. One needs to only think back to the 2016 hack on the US Democrats to consider the power of tech when it comes to elections and political parties.

And when it comes to the power of social media, how can we forget the US Capitol riots on 6 January 2021 or the Dublin riots late last year.

But tech has come a long way since then, and advances in deepfakes and generative AI have led to much larger concerns about how this tech – along with powerful social media platforms – can be weaponised to manipulate voters. Earlier this year, fraudulent calls using an AI-generated voice of US president Joe Biden urged people not to vote in upcoming elections.

In response to this, Big Tech has been struggling to address these worries with any meaningful work. For example, Meta aims to simply reduce the amount of political content its platforms show their users, but this is arguably just a way to bury its head in the sand and questions have been raised about what exactly is considered ‘political content’.

With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that many are calling this a ‘make or break year’ for tech and democracy.

Speaking on the For Tech’s Sake podcast, democracy strategist Liz Carolan said she remains mostly hopeful in the face of these tech threats to democracy but warns about some of the nefarious activities that happen, including proxy battles where foreign entities attempt to influence certain countries’ democratic process to further their own agenda. “There are big geopolitical games at play,” she said.

Carolan is the founder of Digital Action, a globally connected organisation campaigning to protect democracy and human rights from digital threats. As such, she also shared her tips on how to muddle through the misinformation that’s out there.

Check out the latest episode of the season and subscribe to For Tech’s Sake wherever you get your podcasts.

Find out how emerging tech trends are transforming tomorrow with our new podcast, Future Human: The Series. Listen now on Spotify, on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

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