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A new report calls for safeguards to reduce the dangers posed by misinformation, online extremism, and social media manipulation.
A new United Nations-sponsored report offers one of the most comprehensive overviews of the challenges to global electoral integrity posed by the onslaught of misinformation, online extremism, and social media manipulation campaigns, and calls for a series of reforms from platforms, politicians, and international governing bodies.
In a report released Wednesday, the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age found the rise of social media has caused irrevocable harm to global electoral integrity and democratic institutions—and the effects may get even worse.
The report, based on a year of global research and consultations with academics, policy makers, and representatives from the tech industry, calls for governments to form an international coalition—similar to those in place to tackle issues such as human trafficking or climate change—dedicated to addressing foreign meddling in elections and social media influence campaigns. It also urges governments to build an election vulnerability index to help determine which elections are ripe for interference or particularly susceptible to misinformation.
It comes at a watershed moment for election security, as the digital and physical worlds become increasingly intertwined for voters around the globe. In a first for US elections, a Washington state district will allow its 1.2 million eligible voters to cast ballots via smartphone beginning Wednesday. The district, which encompasses the greater Seattle area, is one of many government entities aiming to increase voter turnout by adopting new technology, though past attempts to digitize the process have been marred in controversy. A 2010 trial of an online voting system in the Washington, DC, area was hacked by researchers from the University of Michigan who in 48 hours were able to compromise the server and change all of the vote tallies. Plans to roll out mobile voting to some overseas military members and citizens announced in 2018 met with outrage from the security community, who describe the sites as far from secure.
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