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Generative AI and election disinformation: much ado about nothing?

Over halfway through this record-breaking election year, and while there have been some instances of generative AI deployed in attempts to sway voters, doomsday predictions of AI leading democracy astray have, for the most part, yet to materialize. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paying attention to the impact of generative AI on elections— but as our latest explainer piece explores, the real issue is not with the use of AI to create disinformation, but with how this content is then spread across, consumed on, and moderated by social media platforms. “Focusing on generative AI is a red herring,” notes Access Now’s Eliška Pírkova. ”This is a broader issue that goes beyond the provenance of disinformation content, whether generated by AI or not.” Read more via Access Now

Dig deeper

2024 AI elections tracker

In case you’re curious about where, when, and how the use of AI has been documented as part of this year’s electoral campaigns, Rest of World has a helpful tracker, mapping instances of AI-generated election content in India, Mexico, South Africa, and other countries that have already gone to the polls. Read more via Rest of World

The internet isn’t safe if you’re LGBTQ+

Digital safety guide for LGBTQ+ activists in Africa

In African countries such as Tanzania, Ghana, and Uganda, digital repression of LGBTQ+ people, and those who speak up for LGBTQ+ rights, is rife — but we will not stay silent about it. As part of ongoing efforts to protect LGBTQ+ digital rights, our newest digital safety guide aims to help LGBTQ+ activists in Africa stay safer online, sharing digital safety tips and strategies to suit a range of scenarios. Just remember: every threat situation is unique, and you should reach out to our Digital Security Helpline if you need direct, tailored emergency assistance. Read more via Access Now

The global suppression of online LGBTQ+ speech continues

Unfortunately, the crackdown on LGBTQ+ expression online is a wider global phenomenon; from Indonesia to Russia to Hungary, LGBTQ+ people around the world face daily online harassment, violence, and persecution. To wrap up Pride Month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recaps some of the most dangerous places to be LGBTQ+ online in 2024. Read more via EFF

EU says no to paying for privacy

Meta’s “pay or consent” model fails EU competition rules

It’s a “no” from us. That was the message Meta received from EU regulators this week, when they declared that the company’s so-called “pay or consent” business models, which would force people to either pay for privacy or hand over their data for targeted advertising purposes, do not comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). In the European Commission’s view, ”the binary choice” presented to Facebook and Instagram users forces them “to consent to the combination of their personal data and fails to provide them with a less personalized but equivalent version of Meta’s social networks.” Read more via TechCrunch

The supreme race to the finish

U.S. Supreme Court protects the future of content moderation

Amid the furore related to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on former President Trump’s immunity from criminal prosecution for “official acts” during his tenure in office, you could be forgiven for overlooking some other decisions from this last week of the court’s current term. In two cases we’ve supported, which challenged U.S. state laws against social media platforms’ moderation of political content, the Supreme Court extended free speech protections to how social media platforms moderate their feeds, deeming it similar to how media outlets make editorial decisions. While the cases aren’t closed yet — they’ve been remanded back to the lower courts for re-examination — this is a positive step toward safeguarding the editorial discretion of platforms and publishers alike. Read more via The Verge

The Supreme Court weakens federal regulators, overturning decades-old Chevron decision

In less good news, a separate Supreme Court ruling this week overturned decades of legal precedent enabling U.S. federal agencies to regulate on a wide range of issues, without explicit legislative say-so. The so-called “Chevron deference” granted these agencies a fair amount of discretion to interpret and apply laws, trusting they would know best in their respective areas of expertise. In abolishing the deference, the U.S. risks moving backward on issues of privacy, as well as environmental, labor, and consumer protections. Read more via Associated Press

Digging into the deepest, darkest digital divides

Examining equitability of internet access in Ethiopia

This week, the Center for Advancement of Rights and Democracy (CARD) launched a report examining disparities in internet access across Ethiopia. Funded by Access Now, the research looks at how income, gender, geography, and education are all factors significantly restricting connectivity in the country, with only one in every four Ethiopians accessing the internet. Read more via CARD

Decoding technology-facilitated gender-based violence

It’s estimated that up to 60% of people have been targeted with online or tech-enabled violence because of their gender  a phenomenon with long-lasting and wide-reaching impacts for girls, women, and non-binary people in particular. Now a multi-country study by RutgersGeneration G partnership has taken a closer look at the prevalence of technology facilitated gender-based violence (TFGBV) in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa, and Uganda, outlining ways for governments and communities to act against TFGBV. Read more via Rutgers

Exposing how the EU funds its digital walls

Some of the most egregious digital rights violations are happening at Europe’s edges. Asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants are frequently targeted with a wide array of rights-violating surveillance and tracking technologies,  which are being paid for with EU border management funds, reveals a joint study by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM). Read more via PICUM

Opportunities and other highlights

LISTEN: “Pegasus strikes again”

Tune in to the latest episode of the Trouble with the Truth podcast to hear from Access Now’s Natalia Krapiva speak about the details of our latest joint investigation into how Pegasus spyware was used to hack Russian and Belarusian-speaking journalists and dissidents. Listen via Trouble with the Truth

ICYMI: Online dangers to freedom of expression & climate communication

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2024, Access Now partnered with Global Witness and IPANDETEC to host an event in Santiago, Chile, focused on the links between threats to online freedom and the fight against climate change. Global Witness recaps some key takeaways, including Access Now’s Yamlek Mojica’s own experiences of being doxxed and harassed online for her work as a journalist around key environmental and political events in Nicaragua. Read via Global Witness