Disinformation in AI era

Disinformation spreads like wildfire, and fact-checkers face an uphill task of setting record straight

January 13, 2024


World leaders now consider disinformation to be the biggest threat to democracies around the world and also to the global economy. Misinformation and disinformation on the internet has already been posing problems for the past several years, being used by fascists and tin-pot dictators in the East and West alike, but such propaganda has proliferated ever since deepfakes and other AI-based content started becoming easier to produce. It started with crude videos meant to poke fun at world leaders, but has now gotten to the point where politicians are having deepfakes of themselves made to appeal to certain voting groups — a common one involves politicians speaking in languages that may increase their appeal to certain voters, such as Arabic to appeal to Muslims. In Pakistan, AI was recently used to simulate imprisoned former PM Imran Khan’s likeness and voice for an online political rally.

Disinformation is a serious threat to democratic elections, especially when spread through social media and other online platforms. It can distort public opinion, undermine trust in democratic institutions, and even affect election outcomes. Disinformation spreads like wildfire, and fact-checkers face an uphill task of setting the record straight. Since fair elections depend on informed voters, disinformation corrupts the democratic process. Former US president Donald Trump is perhaps the most famous purveyor of political disinformation in the world, but we have many contenders closer to home, including Indian PM Narendra Modi and his BJP, and several social media activists attached to various political parties and power players in Pakistan. The popularity and success of their false narratives illustrates the urgent need to combat disinformation. Although governments, social media companies and political parties all share some responsibility to increase transparency and accountability in online advertising and political messaging, citizens must also be made more aware through interventions that promote digital literacy and critical thinking skills.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2024.

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