The United States is still investigating the role that Russian bots and trolls may have played in the 2016 election cycle.
Foreign electoral interference is not a new practice. Numerous countries have involved themselves in the affairs of others over the past centuries. What is new are the levels of automated divisiveness that are being spread through Russian interference.
Those involved in political meddling have been described as “sloppy” and “careless.” That may or may not be so, but we are left with one key question: how does big data change the path of politics?
Are We Voting Because of Artificial Intelligence?
In the United Kingdom, swarms of bots were used to manipulate the flow of information during the 2017 election. It was more than “fake news” or misinformation. It was an aggressive effort to change voting patterns at the individual level.
AI is dangerous because of how it can be taught a one-sided message. When these messages begin to spread over personal and professional networks, the result is an illusion of personal acceptance.
In time, it is the Russian bots that are shaping public conversations and political thoughts instead of the candidates and voters.
How Are Bots So Successful at Changing Our Political Discourse?
The role of artificial intelligence in our politics uses bots that are designed to seem like an average human profile. Using sites like Facebook or Twitter, their goal is to highlight negative messages about specific demographics and social issues.
This creates a desire to vote… or a desire not to vote. It also creates societal divisions that pit demographics against each other.
Not only can the actions of the bots be automated, but so can the content being spread. A common tactic is to create a plausible narrative which shows a specific candidate or idea is hypocritical, fraudulent, or inexperienced.
When enough people believe the narrative, then the bots have been successful.
What Can We Do to Stop This Process?
AI can be used for good. In a society of blame, it is easy to blame AI for the wrongs that happen to us, but that takes us nowhere.
We must use AI to create ethical campaigns that encourage a positive, interpersonal discourse within our society.
We can also use AI to automate many of our daily living activities which involve information. That would give us all more time to determine if the information we are reading is real or bot-generated.
AI is not going away. Neither are the Russian bots that create interference. That means it is up to each of us to become better teachers with artificial intelligence.
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