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High concern revealed worldwide over misinformation and its potential impact on elections

by | Apr 23, 2024 | Public Relations

The 2020 American presidential election was a wake-up call for the kinds of things that can go wrong with modern voting. Ballot tampering or other misbehavior doesn’t seem too unrealistic, and whether it happens or not, it now (I guess) creates the possibility for a losing candidate to declare that the results are invalid. And as we saw before the inauguration, the potential for dangerous retaliation is sky high. 

Not surprisingly, there’s escalated concern about what might happen this year in the age of generative AI and more sophisticated misinformation, new research from Adobe affirms—and it’s not just the U.S. election; people around the world have similar worries about the impact on their own contests.

The firm’s inaugural Future of Trust study, based on its collaboration with Advanis to survey over 6,000 consumers across the U.S., U.K., France and Germany about their experience encountering misinformation online and concerns about the impact of generative AI, seeks to understand public perceptions and sentiment about the societal impact of generative AI and misinformation, including its implications within the context of global elections this year. 

Among the findings, the study highlights strong desire from consumers to have tools to verify the trustworthiness of digital content and the urgent need for proactive measures to address misinformation’s potential impact on election integrity globally.

“At Adobe, we see the transformative potential of generative AI in boosting creativity and productivity. However, in an era of deepfakes, AI-powered misinformation poses a significant risk to election integrity,” said  Andy Parsons, senior director of the Content Authenticity initiative  at Adobe, in a news release. “The danger in deepfakes isn’t just the deception—it’s also the doubt. Once fooled by a deepfake, you may no longer believe what you see online. And when people begin to doubt everything, when they can’t tell fiction from fact, democracy itself is threatened.” 

Key findings include:

Misinformation is regarded as one of the biggest threats facing society—a concern that may be eroding trust in certain platforms where misinformation is spread.

  • With misinformation becoming more prevalent, the study shows that most respondents (84 percent U.S., 85 percent U.K., 84 percent France, 80 percent Germany) express concern that the content they consume online is vulnerable to being altered to fuel misinformation.
  • A significant number of consumers (70 percent U.S., 76 percent U.K., 73 percent France, 70 percent Germany) said that it is becoming difficult to verify whether the content they are consuming online is trustworthy.
  • Concerns about misinformation are also impacting consumer’s use of social media platforms with some respondents (39 percent U.S., 29 percent U.K., 37 percent France, 24 percent Germany) saying that they have stopped or curtailed their use of a specific social media platform due to the amount of misinformation on it.

Amidst a climate of eroding trust in digital content, consumers are concerned about protecting election integrity

  • In a year when over four billion people globally are expected to head to the polls, the study found that a significant number of people (80 percent U.S., 78 percent U.K., 67 percent France, 70 percent Germany) believe that misinformation and harmful deepfakes will impact future elections.
  • Without widespread tools to help them decide whether the online content they are consuming is true, a significant number of people (78 percent U.S., 83 percent U.K., 78 percent France, 72 percent Germany) believe that election candidates should be prohibited from using generative AI in their promotional content.
  • Most consumers (83 percent U.S., 88 percent U.K., 84 percent France, 79 percent Germany) believe that governments and technology companies should work together to protect election integrity against the detrimental effects of deepfakes and misinformation.

Most people consider the credibility of a source before sharing content but believe that having the tools and media literacy skills to verify whether a content is true is important

  • Most people (88 percent U.S., 88 percent U.K., 85 percent France, 79 percent Germany) believe that it is essential that they have the right tools to verify if online content is trustworthy.
  • In addition, a high percentage of respondents (76 percent U.S., 82 percent U.K., 77 percent France, 74 percent Germany) agree that it is important to know if the content they are consuming is generated using AI.
  • Concerns regarding misinformation are impacting how people think about its potential effect on children, with most consumers (84 percent U.S., 89 percent U.K., 83 percent France, 81 percent Germany) saying that children should be taught media literacy skills as part of their school curriculum. 

“We are all excited about the power of generative AI to transform creativity and productivity,” said Dana Rao, executive vice president, general counsel and chief trust officer at Adobe, in a news release. “As a leader in commercially deploying AI technology, we have long considered its implication in society. As the results of this study clearly show, it is critical that we educate consumers about the dangers of deepfakes and provide them with tools to understand what is true. With elections coming, now is the time to adopt protective technologies like Content Credentials to help restore trust in the digital content we are consuming.”

“Combating misinformation and restoring trust in the digital ecosystem requires transparency, open development, and deep collaboration among diverse stakeholders,” said Parsons. “We believe governments can help promote the widespread adoption of provenance tools in digital media. This is why Adobe has been actively engaging with policymakers globally as they work to establish guardrails for the responsible development and use of AI.”

Read a comprehensive analysis of study data broken down by each region: U.S., U.K., France, and Germany.

Adobe collaborated with Advanis to collect 2,012 responses from the U.S., 2,002 responses from the U.K., 1,043 responses from France and 1,020 responses from Germany; all survey respondents were 18 and older. Data was collected from an opt-in non-probability sample provider in March.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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