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Nations target AI disinformation ahead of elections, and other digital technology stories you need to know

  • An article by Cathy Li, Head, AI, Data and Metaverse; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva

  • This round-up brings you key digital technology stories from the past fortnight.

  • Top digital technology stories: AI misinformation targeted by governments and businesses; EU students want AI education but lack access; LLMs respond better to polite prompts.

1. Nations and businesses target AI disinformation ahead of elections

Government agencies and businesses in North America and Europe have announced plans to curb AI misinformation ahead of elections scheduled this year.

The US Federal Communications Commission has banned robocalls that use AI-generated voices. "Bad actors are using AI-generated voices in unsolicited robocalls to extort vulnerable family members, imitate celebrities and misinform voters," said FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. "We're putting the fraudsters behind these robocalls on notice."

Misinformation and disinformation are ranked as the greatest threats to society in the next two years.

Meanwhile, Meta will be working to counter disinformation in EU elections. A team will be set up ahead of the European Parliament elections in June to address concerns about interference and misinformation.

"As the election approaches, we'll activate an Elections Operations Center to identify potential threats and put mitigations in place in real-time," said Marco Pancini, Meta's head of EU affairs. The tech giant is also launching a helpline in India to help detect deepfake content on WhatsApp.

AI chatbots have also come under the microscope from election officials. A recent workshop – held as part of a broader research project – tested Open AI’s GPT-4, Meta’s Llama 2, Google’s Gemini, Anthropic’s Claude and Mistral’s Mixtral.

It found all platforms were prone to mistakes when asked questions about the democratic process.

The bots seemingly used outdated or inaccurate sources in some responses. “The chatbots are not ready for primetime when it comes to giving important, nuanced information about elections,” said Seth Bluestein, a Republican city commissioner in Philadelphia.

In a statement, OpenAI explained that its approach in the run-up to and during 2024's elections is to 'continue our platform safety work by elevating accurate voting information, enforcing measured policies, and improving transparency'.

2. European students want education on AI but lack technology access

Students in Europe want to learn about AI but many lack access to the technology, new research has indicated.

Education technology business GoStudent surveyed over 5,500 students aged 10 to 16 in Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the UK.

It found that over half of respondents (54%) wanted to learn how to use AI and listed technology development – including AI and virtual and augmented reality – as a key skill needed in the future.

The expected impact of technology adoption on jobs.

But over a third (35%) said they were not being taught the skills they needed to do their dream jobs.

The report also indicated wide deviations in access to IT resources. More than 40% of students in Austria and Germany had access to tablets at school, but this fell to 20% in France. Meanwhile, nearly 70% of UK and Spanish students use computers while on site compared with 34% in Italy.

"This is causing a technology gap that may push disadvantaged children further behind," the report said.

3. News in brief: Other tech stories to know

Large Language Models (LLMs) respond better to polite prompts, according to a new study. The research tested a range of prompts with different levels of politeness in English, Chinese and Japanese.

AI is driving sales growth in the telecoms sector, according to new research from Nvidia. Research found that around a fifth of respondents said revenue growth from AI was above 10% in specific business areas.

Optimism around technology also sent Nasdaq to a post-COVID high in February. The index—home to many technology firms—rose 0.9%, marking its rebound following the 2021 slump.

Teachers in the US of grades 3-12 students are starting to be offered a new tool called Writable, which uses ChatGPT to help grade student writing assignments.

4. More on digital technology on Agenda

While technology has long aided conservationists’ work, AI is emerging as a powerful ally. Metolo A. Foyet, founding curator at Global Shapers, explores how it is helping monitor wildlife and engage the public on conservation issues.

In the world of entertainment, the use of AI became a significant point of contention between SAG-AFTRA – a union representing tens of thousands of actors and other artists – and major film studios. This resulted in strike action in 2023. Speaking at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, discussed the key concerns the union has around the technology.

The cybersecurity industry is experiencing a global talent shortage. In his recent article, Alexander Riabov, Senior Communications Advisor at DAI Digital Frontiers, discusses how leveraging pop culture could inspire the next generation.

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