The AP published a great article. This is your executive summary: Conspiracy theories have always been part of American culture, but advanced technology is making them more persuasive and dangerous than ever before. This was evident after the devastating Maui wildfires last August, when doctored videos and images spread rapidly on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube claiming the fires were deliberately set by the U.S. government using advanced energy weapons.
While that claim was false, the videos were viewed millions of times and amplified by extremist groups and conspiracy theorists. This shows how easy it is for disinformation to spread thanks to social media and erode public trust. With big elections coming up in 2024, the threat of "deep fake" videos created using artificial intelligence could undermine democracy by deceiving voters.
There's evidence that belief in conspiracy theories is already leading to real-world violence. Researchers identified over 100 violent incidents in 2020 motivated by conspiracy theories—a huge increase from previous years. The January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol was largely perpetrated by people who believed claims of a stolen election. More recently, a man killed his two children out of a delusional belief in the QAnon conspiracy.
As long as social media companies allow extremist content and disinformation to spread unchecked, and politicians continue to exploit conspiracy theories for their own gain, this threat to democracy will only grow. It may already be too late to fully combat fake videos and news in the digital age. Your workforce definitely needs to be trained to recognize disinformation and misinformation.