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Closeness of B.C. election to U.S. election ‘likely’ to lead to more false news

But Elections BC says it is prepared to handle threats to election integrity
Elections BC says “voters in B.C. should have a high degree of confidence in the security of our elections and trust the results” in noting that it is prepared for various challenges including AI to election integrity. (Black Press Media file photo)

The office responsible for managing elections in B.C. expects an increase in false or misleading information as the provincial election scheduled for Oct. 19 approaches.

This development is “particularly likely this year” with the provincial election taking place less than three weeks before elections in the United States scheduled for Nov. 5.

But British Columbians can be confident that Elections BC has the “tools necessary” to respond to the challenges, which misinformation, disinformation and artificial intelligence pose.

“We are taking these risks to election integrity seriously and are proactively working to address them,” Elections BC said in a statement to Black Press Media. Voters in B.C. should have a high degree of confidence in the security of our elections and trust the results.”

These comments come in response to questions raised after the World Economic Forum had released its Global Risks Report 2024. It identifies AI-derived misinformation and disinformation with its implications for social conflict as the biggest global risk for the next two years, ahead of climate change, war and economic weakness.

British Columbians will join billions of people in countries around the globe, including the United States, India among other Asian countries and several European countries, to elect new national and regional leaders with many experts considering 2024 a make-or-break year for democracy.

Elections BC said in its statement that it had not reviewed WEF’s report. But it agrees that disinformation (the deliberate spreading of information known to be false) and misinformation (the spreading of inaccurate information without knowing that is inaccurate) create risks. They include negative impacts to civil society, perceptions of and participation in electoral democracy and perceptions of election integrity, it reads.

“We also agree that artificial intelligence could have the potential to exacerbate these risks,” it adds. “These risks have been on our radar for some time. We have been taking active steps to counter any risks, and we are absolutely confident in the integrity of our elections.”

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Measures include changes to the provincial election law in May 2023. They prohibit specific forms of deliberate disinformation about elections, such as false information about voter eligibility and voting opportunities. Other steps taken by Elections BC include establishing formalized relationships with police, federal security agencies and other regulatory bodies and preparing for responses to various scenarios, the hiring of additional investigators and a public education campaign.

The public education campaign scheduled to run later this year will include tips on how to spot misinformation and disinformation and what Elections BC calls a disinformation register to inform voters and provide accurate information.”We monitor disinformation through social media monitoring, news media monitoring and complaints,” it reads.

With the provincial election some 10 months away, Elections BC says it has so far not observed any cases violating election law.

“In every election there is always some level of misinformation. Some of it comes from honest mistakes by voters who are confused about how the process works, or who may believe things they read online which originate from another jurisdiction such as the U.S. We work to proactively correct any inaccuracies we observe in the media or on social media.”

Voters themselves can also play a part.

“If voters are not sure whether something they see online is true, they should stop and consider fact-checking the information before sharing it,” it reads. “Just by not sharing false content (they) are helping to stop the spread of online disinformation and misinformation.”

Voters should visit the Elections BC website for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

“Finally, if voters encounter false information that appears to violate the Election Act (such as deliberate false statements about the times or location of voting opportunities or statements from individuals or organization impersonating Elections BC), they should report the situation,” it reads.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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