The Pros and Cons of Technology

At this moment in history, technology surrounds us – even more so in the past two decades. It allows us to stay connected in unimaginable ways.

Twenty years ago, the smartphone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and video conferencing were all emerging technologies. The world was revolutionized with the advancement of 3G or third-generation connectivity in our mobile phones in 2002, and now, nearly 20 years later, almost every mobile smartphone has the ability to connect to a 5G cellular network.

As technology evolves, so do its uses, especially in the political arena.

Technological advancements in voting were made following the 2000 presidential election which saw no clear winner on election night. Punch cards paved the way for new technology like electronic voting machines. Fast forward 20 years when a worldwide pandemic forced the country to find a new way to get to the polls. A record number of voters cast their ballots by mail, which led to a delay in the presidential election being called not on election night, but nearly three and a half days later.

This delay, and increased election scrutiny following the 2020 election, is causing some tech companies to find a solution that might make it easier and more efficient for people to vote. Earlier this year, the city of Chandler, Arizona, launched a pilot program using a smartphone app to vote. The “Voatz” app uses blockchain technology which makes it difficult to change or hack. It is the same technology used for the increasingly popular cryptocurrency.

While advances in technology are being used in positive ways, there is also a contingent using technology in a negative fashion.

Deep fakes use artificial intelligence (or machine learning) to replace the likeness of one person with another in video or digital media. While these videos have not found their way into mainstream media, some have been found floating around social media. The House Intelligence Committee held hearings on the potential malicious use of deepfakes to sway elections. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have introduced legislation to respond to the problems posed by deep fakes.

So, the question we must ask is should innovation and security always be at odds? Is there a way to find a balance between the two? Join Secretary Janet Napolitano and Senator Mark Warner, two national security experts and public servants, for a fascinating discussion about the risks and opportunities of emergent technologies for voting, political engagement and much more.

Watch: Emergent Technologies: Friend or Foe?

Defending Against the Ravages of Disinformation

The rise of social media has given everyone with a smartphone or computer access to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter the power to broadcast their voice, their message to the masses with the touch of a button. The definition of social media is simple, interactive technology that allows the creation or sharing of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. However, with its rise in popularity, social media comes with some pitfalls, including the increased spread of disinformation.

There is a difference between disinformation and misinformation.

Misinformation is defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead.”

Disinformation is defined as “false information which is intended to mislead, especially propaganda issued by a government organization to a rival power or the media.”

In just the past 18 months, disinformation has had direct, harmful effects on efforts to check the spread of COVID-19, on initiatives for racial justice and on the 2020 election and its aftermath. What is even scarier, is that the continued spread of disinformation has no sign of slowing or stopping. It has forced social media companies to add disclaimers to social media posts implying that the information being read may not be accurate or truthful. News organizations are employing more fact checkers to ensure the information they disseminate over the airwaves is not false.

Eminent scholars were brought together for a Berkeley Conversation to debate and explore one of the most critical questions facing our democracy: How can we counter disinformation to protect our communities without compromising America’s core principles?

The event is sponsored by the Goldman School of Public Policy, Berkeley Law and the Office of Communications and Public Affairs.

Watch Defending Against the Ravages of Disinformation.

From Cal Student to Mayor of Berkeley

The Center on Civility & Democratic Engagement (CCDE) at the Goldman School of Public Policy presents a special 2021 UC Berkeley Homecoming lecture featuring Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. CCDE Faculty Director Dan Lindheim interviews Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin on how he went from Cal student to Berkeley’s Mayor, and the key issues the City faces in terms of public safety, housing, homelessness, COVID, and its complicated relationships with the Berkeley campus.

Watch From Cal Student to Mayor of Berkeley.

Securing the Vote

Democracy withstood the assaults of misinformation during the contentious 2020 American Presidential election but did not emerge unscathed. The Center for Security in Politics at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy explores what it means to have free and fair elections from three perspectives: the international comparative aspect, lessons from battleground states, and election security.

With more than 100 democracies currently in the world, there are potentially many examples of how we might improve our election process in the future. The first panel brings together a distinguished group of experts to focus on election security practices in Latin America, South Asia, and West Africa. What might the United States be able to learn from what’s being done in these regions?

The panelists include Katherine Casey, Associate Professor of Political Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; Thomas Fujiwara, Associate Professor of Economics at Princeton University; Gianmarco León-Ciliottais, Associate Professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Aila M. Matanock, Associate Professor of Political Science at the UC Berkeley; and moderator Susan Hyde, Professor of Political Science at the UC Berkeley. These scholars focus on election security practices in Brazil, India, and Sierra Leone while also citing examples from other countries.

Then, get firsthand accounts from a cybersecurity expert and election officials from Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The panel of experts examined the 2020 election, current debates about voter suppression and what to expect in future electoral contests. States like Arizona and Michigan put in tremendous effort to educate voters and demonstrate the integrity of the process. They built robust election infrastructure, created resources to demystify the election process and invited people to participate in the process of keeping elections transparent.

The panelists include Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State; Katie Hobbs, Arizona Secretary of State, Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General; Matthew Masterson, Former Senior Cybersecurity Advisor at CISA, Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; and moderator Janet Napolitano, Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley.

The third panel features domestic experts in election security practices. They focus their discussion on how we can advance our own election security practices by using the knowledge we’ve gained from our experiences in 2020 as well as looking at best practices in other countries to improve our system overall.

The panelists are Wayne Williams, former Colorado Secretary of State; Kammi Foote, Clerk Recorder and Registrar of Voters for Inyo County; Jennifer Morrell, former Colorado local election official and Partner at The Elections Group; Philip Stark, UC Berkeley Professor Statistics; and moderator Henry Brady, Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley.

Watch Free and Fair Elections: Lessons for the US from the Rest of the World.

The Truth Needs Reinforcements

Maybe it has happened to you. You were talking to friends, or scrolling through Facebook when someone shares an outrageous political news story. You think, “that can’t be right.” After a quick check you confirm the story was actually fabricated by a click farm or satirical website. You might be able to set your friend straight, but what about the larger implications of living in a world where you can’t believe everything, if anything, you read or see.

David Barstow, the new head of UC Berkeley’s investigative journalism program, addressed the challenges facing truth during the Goldman School of Public Policy’s recent board of advisor’s dinner. Barstow examines attacks on the truth from several angles. There is the aforementioned rise of intentionally untruthful news. There is social media, granting anyone unfettered access to the masses. There are deepfakes, new technology allowing people to create increasingly convincing videos of politicians, celebrities and others saying whatever the creator wishes. And on top of it all, there is the rise of public relations firms putting pressure on the economically devastated journalism industry.

Barstow believes we are in a great contest between a world of truth and a kingdom of lies. He shows how investigative reporting can excavate truth from a mountain of deceit, from his work examining President Trump’s finances, to Ronin Farrow’s reporting on Harvey Weinstein. Now, the four-time Pulitzer Prize winner hopes to inspire a new generation of journalists.

Watch — The World of Truth vs. The Kingdom of Lies — Goldman School of Public Policy Board of Advisors Dinner Fall 2019