Risks and Trends 2019

Risk and Trends is an annual conference organized by Polityka Insight, the leading polish economic think tank for which we’ve built a mobile content distribution platform. This year we were honored with an invitation to listen to influencers from Poland and abroad on diverse topics such as the slowdown of Polish economic growth, ensuring fairness of elections in the digital age.

The topic that interested me the most was:

"How to ensure the security of elections in the digital era and defend democracy online?"

was led by David Agranovich working on Threat Disruption, Facebook (former NSC) and accompanied by many policy influencers from Polish institutions, government and eu parliament. I think it’s a rare opportunity to be a part of such an event so I would like to share with you some of my insights.

IO

The first one regards Information Operations (IO) - for those who (like me) haven’t heard the term before, here is a definition:

The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own. Also called IO. http://www.au.af.mil/info-ops/what.htm

The panel was opened by David explaining the basics of IO in context of how fake information is created, distributed and finally escalated. The problem that was very visible during 2016 US election (cambridge analytica) but not limited to. As it turns out, the problem is global. Solving, or let’s say containing it, requires an army of people working on identification, and pruning of fake accounts, fake content, malicious groups and events.

I was mostly interested in the technological part of this problem, which unfortunately was not a part of the discussion. David mentioned only that the majority of fake network detection (which involves scanning vast amounts of social graphs) is done automatically. The characteristics of artificially created networks are easy to identify based on just few graph properties. But, unfortunately for me as a tech guy, the rest of the discussion was kept on a very high level. So I can only wonder what type of tools, algorithms and infrastructure are being used for that purpose. (If you have any knowledge of this and would like to share then feel free to contact me).

Fact-Checkers

Another interesting highlight were fact-checkers - a mechanism to verify the authenticity of information. This idea and a set of tools along with selected authorities, journalists etc. should, in theory, help social media platform to guarantee some level of trustworthiness in published information.

The opinions are divided on this topic as you can read extensive article on The Guardian saying:

“Current and former Facebook fact-checkers told the Guardian that the tech platform’s collaboration with outside reporters has produced minimal results and that they’ve lost trust in Facebook, which has repeatedly refused to release meaningful data about the impacts of their work...“

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/dec/13/they-dont-care-facebook-fact-checking-in-disarray-as-journalists-push-to-cut-ties

The question arises who will be responsible for such activities in Poland. Which media corporations, publishers and political forces will be involved and how they will be elected. In this context, Artificial Intelligence could be helpful to some extent in validating the truthfulness of published statements. Maybe I will dare to dig on this topic in future posts as it seems to be a matter of ever growing importance.

I would like to say thank you to Polityka Insight and all the event speakers for the opportunity to get these insights. It was a great event, prepared on the highest professional level. Hope that our long lasting relationship with Polityka Insight will continue to grow.

If you want to find out more about the aforementioned topics, here is a podcast with an interview with David Agranovich: https://soundcloud.com/politykainsight/26-lutego-2019

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