Briefing

Hostile governments could use artificial intelligence and disinformation to polarize the Canadian population, per government reports

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The Digital Inclusion Lab, part of Global Affairs Canada, said foreign actors could try to encourage separatism, citing an unsuccessful attempt involving Saudi Arabian social media accounts supportive of the Quebec independence movement. The agency said Canada should watch for activities like the alleged Russian and Venezuelan spreading of disinformation during Catalonia’s referendum on separating from Spain in 2017. The reports also stated that artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to spread “highly personalized propaganda” to citizens. (National Post)

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Talking point: The lab said governments may need to respond to AI-driven political messaging by “reasserting the existence of facts, expertise, and [the] common view of reality upon which democracy rests.” Ottawa has so far focused on educating the public about how disinformation spreads and how to spot it. In January, The Logic reported that the federal government will spend $7 million on awareness campaigns and digital-literacy programs before the scheduled October election. A panel of senior bureaucrats will also inform the public if they decide there’s been a significant attempt at election interference. The government hasn’t set up a system to identify or debunk fake news stories, after internal reports said its intervention could backfire.