Artificial intelligence at elections

More opportunities than threats

09. September 2021, 09:30 Uhr   |  Tobias Schlichtmeier

More opportunities than threats
© Plattform Lernende Systeme

We encounter AI in all areas of life - including democratic elections. AI-controlled social bots in social media or so-called deepfakes aim to influence voters. On the other hand, AI systems can give election recommendations and detect fake news.

Do you already know where to put your cross on election day? It would be nice to get a little help in forming your opinion via an AI. That's why a team of experts from the Learning Systems Platform has investigated the potentials and challenges for AI applications in elections and published the whitepaper "AI systems and individual voting decisions. Opportunities and Challenges for Democracy." The conclusion: AI systems hardly pose a threat to elections; the opportunities to strengthen open opinion-forming with AI outweigh them.

After all, false news repeatedly impedes the process of opinion-forming in the run-up to elections. With the help of artificial intelligence, information can be disseminated efficiently and in a targeted manner, especially in social media. The manipulation of elections by AI systems is therefore one of the fears repeatedly expressed by society.

According to the authors, AI systems do not pose any risks to the election process itself. In particular, voting in Germany is very secure due to the absence of voting computers and similar technology. Isolated possible attacks on the evaluation of votes have nothing to do with AI. Where risks arise from AI, however, is in the election campaign and for opinion-forming before elections.

Risks for opinion forming

One of the risks is AI-driven dissemination of information. AI systems can run fake accounts on social media, tagging or sharing content and making their manipulative behavior look like it came from a human. In this way, the so-called social bots help false information or certain individuals gain wide reach. In microtargeting, AI processes are used to analyze user data and - similar to advertising - address different target groups with personalized information. However, the extent to which this can influence voting decisions is still unclear. Videos and images faked with AI can also influence the opinion of eligible voters. Once unmasked, however, AI systems are equally capable of finding and deleting such deepfakes.

Using AI to improve voter information

Political processes generate large amounts of data that can be analyzed using AI methods. For this reason, AI-based data analysis could be used to improve voter information and mobilization. For example, election recommendation apps such as Wahl-O-Mat. Current apps could use AI methods to take more account of people's individual attitudes and improve their recommendations with each use. Likewise, party campaign apps and election forecasts could benefit from AI

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