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Battling Misinformation During Election Season

Dissemination of false information, often with the intent to deceive, has become a pervasive issue amplified by artificial intelligence (AI) tools.

Ben Sebree

January 22, 2024

3 Min Read
Hand putting a ballot into a box
Source: Saphiens via Alamy Stock Photo

COMMENTARY

The 2024 US election season is upon us, bringing a surge of political advertisements and social media conversations, as well as the challenge of navigating through a landscape increasingly tainted by misinformation. The dissemination of false information, often with the intent to deceive, has become a pervasive issue amplified by the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) tools. For those who plan to cast votes this year, discerning reliable information amid the noise has become more difficult than ever.

Misinformation has proliferated online like never before, and its prevalence is expected to increase as we move toward the presidential election in November. In the era of AI, it's crucial to address and rectify this issue, and sooner rather than later. According to OnePoll research commissioned by Forbes Advisor, 76% of consumers are concerned about misinformation from AI tools. This is driving a major lack of trust in the government — trust that needs to be rebuilt if state and local officials want to be reelected. Local governments can play a crucial role in alleviating concerns and helping ensure residents have access to trustworthy information through various strategies.

The Era of Tainted Information

While it may be unrealistic to completely eradicate misinformation, local governments have several avenues to help residents distinguish between genuine and fake information, thereby enabling them to make informed decisions. However, for local governments to be seen as reliable and trustworthy sources, it's critical to first build trust within the community. This can be done by implementing a robust communications strategy that identifies the different ways residents access information and includes targeted messaging and outreach plans for each channel. This strategy should also include a plan for monitoring and responding to misinformation and disinformation.

Local governments can serve as a bastion of accuracy for their constituents by:

  • Educating residents about what misinformation is and how to identify it through awareness campaigns and informational events hosted in local communities. Education can foster residents' ability to identify false or deceptive information.

  • Creating dedicated platforms such as a website or app where residents can fact check their news sources by submitting links to items such as articles or social media posts for verification.

  • Promoting local news and media since these sources are often more trustworthy than social media. Local governments can do this by sharing posts from their local news organizations or hosting press conferences.

  • Supporting fact-checking organizations by providing financial support, partnering with them on educational initiatives, and advocating for their work.

  • Mitigating the spread of misinformation on social media by partnering directly with these platforms to develop policies and practices to limit the proliferation of false and misleading information. For example, they can advocate for platforms to remove false or misleading content, and make it easier for users to identify and report misinformation.

Local governments should also make it as easy as possible for residents to find the information they need. Creating a clear and accessible website with information available in multiple formats and languages and maintaining a strong social media presence can go a long way in making accurate information easy to access.

Additionally, local governments must be transparent and accountable, and engage with residents consistently to build trust. Delivering regular updates on key issues and holding public meetings and town hall events to involve residents and answer their questions directly are crucial components for improving engagement, showcasing transparency, and building and reinforcing trust.

Finally, local governments should consider partnering with other organizations in the community to broaden their reach and ensure as many people as possible are getting access to the information they need.

Win Election Season With Accurate, Reliable Information

There's no doubt that election years can be challenging, especially as technology becomes more prominent in our lives, but the availability of accurate information should be a top priority for local governments.

While the season can absolutely prove to be a chaotic, hectic time, the goal is to not get bogged down by misinformation. Provide resources for residents to fact check their sources, encourage them to do their own research, and help ensure they're able to trust their local government to deliver the information they need.

About the Author(s)

Ben Sebree

Senior Vice President of Research and Development, CivicPlus

As the Senior Vice President of Research and Development for CivicPlus®, Ben Sebree oversees finding new opportunities for CivicPlus' unified applications portfolio to adapt and meet the changing needs of local governments and their residents. He achieves this by utilizing the latest and most innovative technologies. Ben's extensive experience in the technology sector spans over twelve years, with a focus on enterprise platforms, IoT technology, AI, CaaS, and integrations for seven years. His expertise has been recognized with multiple industry awards, and he continues to innovate, holding several pending patents.

In addition to leading CivicPlus' integrated solutions, Ben collaborates with third-party partners to create industry-leading system integrations that can serve as the foundation for all local government software needs. Ben earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems and Human Resources, as well as a Master of Business Administration from Kansas State University.

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