Digital democracy European Union

2023's New Disinformation Trends and Technologies

2023 will be remembered as the year artificial intelligence tools became truly mainstream. From popular language models like ChatGPT to sophisticated image generators such as Midjourney, creating and disseminating synthetic content has never been easier. But these new technologies also pose significant risks to the digital information space, as they facilitate the creation of ever more convincing disinformation. Already, we have seen AI-generated content contributing to false and deceiving narratives during elections.    

As we look towards the future, it becomes evident that this year’s staggering technological advancements will continue to accelerate, further enhancing the credibility and sophistication of content generation. This rapid and often unpredictable evolution of technology presents both opportunities and challenges. To stay ahead, it is crucial to not only embrace these advancements but also to develop robust strategies for anticipating and adapting to these changes.    

DRI’s Digital Democracy (DD) team spent the past year monitoring and researching these emerging technologies and their impact on online election discourses. In our final webinar event of 2023, we invited experts from across civil society to join us in discussing this year's dynamic disinformation landscape, as well as share our predictions for which trends we expect to observe in the new year.   

The webinar featured the following members of the DRI Digital Democracy team: 

  • Dr. Jan Nicola Beyer, Research Coordinator 
  • Beatriz Saab, Research Officer 
  • Duncan Allen, Research Associate 

As well as esteemed guest speakers:  

  • Jacobo Castellanos | WITNESS, Technology Threats & Opportunities Coordinator 
  • Dr. Sebastian Hallensleben | VDE - Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik e.V., Head of Digitalisation and Chair of CEN-CENELEC JTC 21 
  • Wafaa Heikal | Democracy Reporting International, Social Media Analyst MENA Region 

The event began with a presentation by Duncan Allen on the major shifts the Digital Democracy team has observed in the disinformation landscape, as well as an overview of the work we published in the past year investigating 2023’s emerging technologies and threats. Of particular focus was the rise of Artificial Intelligence products such as ChatGPT and their impact on the spread of disinformation. Also addressed was the relationship between authoritarian governments and AI tools and the increasing use of AI generated content in mainstream elections. 

 The introduction was followed by a discussion between Jan Nicola Beyer and Jacobo Castellanos about the impact generative AI has had on civil society. Mr. Castellanos offered insight into how organisations like WITNESS are adapting to emerging technologies by employing AI tools in their journalistic and advocacy work. This discussion was followed by a Q&A session. 

Next up, researcher Beatriz Saab moderated a discussion panel between Dr. Sebastian Hallensleben, Wafaa Heikal, and Jacobo Castellanos on the expected future trends and technologies of 2024. The experts emphasised that artificial technologies are here to stay and will not only increase in widespread use and sophistication, but also lead to a pollution of online spaces with an overwhelming amount of synthetic content. Because of these trends, we can expect to observe greater debate in the coming years over the equal distribution of AI detection technologies among news and fact checking organizations. In addition to offering their predictions, the speakers stressed the need for civil society to remain vigilant towards generative AI, employing it responsibly while remaining aware of its risks.  

The event is part of our DisinfoRadar project, which receives support from the German Federal Foreign Office. 

This work is supported by