Trusting tech during elections

Published April 30, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

The Philippine Midterm elections is fast approaching this May, and the campaign is revving up real fast. I don’t watch local TV channels, nor read major newspapers, except for Manila Bulletin, of course, so I do not know how the campaigns are turning out — whether it is becoming mudslinging, or still remains to be decent. However, I am anticipating the mudslinging to come during the last stretch of the campaign.

Using technology to create campaign materials for online distribution ramped up during the last presidential elections. At the same time, technology has been abused to create disinformation to destroy opponents. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most used platforms — no thanks to their failures to monitor and moderate toxic, hateful content. Add the fact that both Smart and Globe unfairly provide an advantage to the distribution of disinformation through these contents by giving Filipinos free access to these platforms, whilst charging for access to sites to verify and refute disinformation. Yes, free access to Facebook, most specially, is a threat to the Philippine democracy!

The prevalence of disinformation or fake news is alarming. One should not trust any material they see online. News articles are created by unethical writers, and distributed via Facebook and Twitter. Photos are edited using photo editing software to dupe viewers. Again, these are posted on Facebook and Twitter. Finally, videos are clipped, edited, and to some extremes, AI-processed (to come up with deep fakes), to remove context and used to discredit political opponents. Similarly, these videos are posted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — which are boosted using the platforms AI recommending engines, whose prime motivation is increasing engagement (keeping you on their site longer) for maximum profit. The TL;DR is do not trust everything you see online!

Trusting technology depends on trusting the one using it. That being said, specially during the day of the election, the only trustworthy source of material is video, and not video that is uploaded (as these are edited), but live video. Editing a live-stream on-the-fly is more difficult to do than doing the post-processing after capture. A live-streamed video, regardless of whose account it is from, is very difficult to fake.

So, if you are covering the May 2019 elections, equip yourself with a camera and a mobile data subscription. Use a video service that has live-streaming support from mobile devices to allow for better mobility — carrying a full video camera gear is ideal, but is more complex to setup for live-streaming. And finally, inform viewers of live-stream URL a week before the actual election.

Good luck!