AI & The 2020 Elections

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What’s AI doing in Politics?

Elections are the time when the people of a country are endowed with enormous power and decide their collective future. Whether young or old, right-leaning or left; every citizen partakes to elect the next group of representatives that will govern.


A political party is able to influence the citizenry to vote for their respective candidates.  It goes without saying that technology today is playing a huge role in the ability to exert precise influence. Politicians are relying on technological advancements such as analysing Big Data to engage and connect better with people. 


For instance, former U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign team implemented Big Data Analytics and nudged his voters. This maximised the effectiveness of his email campaigns raising of a massive US$1 billion in campaign donations.


Use of AI during the Campaign Season

By analyzing the unique psychographic and behavioural user profiles of voters; Artificial Intelligence is being used to persuade people to vote for a specific candidate or even create a bias against that candidate’s opponent. 


In the 2016 US Presidential Elections, researchers from the University of Washington discovered that automated social media bots were being used to increase the Twitter traffic for pro-Trump hashtags. The political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (now defunct), was accused of helping Donald Trump win the election by promoting anti-Hillary Clinton content among voters. 

The company gained access to the data of over 87 million Facebook users. Using machine learning to put together their psychological profiles; Facebook’s own targeted advertising system was leveraged to display content to the users and garner an opinion that was in Trump’s favour.

During the UK general elections in 2017, swarms of automated social media bots were used to spread fake political news on social media. These bots were used to target candidates who were more likely to vote for a particular political party. Through negative messages, the bots were successful in swaying the minds of voters and prevented them from turning up to vote on the day of the elections. In the last 3 months of the year, Twitter suspended more than 58 million malicious automated bot accounts.


What will the future of AI, governments & election-cycles look like?

A survey on Europeans’ attitudes towards technology found that a quarter of people might prefer it if policy decisions were made by artificial intelligence instead of politicians once elected.

This mindset, probably exhibits the growing mistrust citizens feel towards governments and the disillusioned model of democracy. 


AI has the ability to determine policies by gathering a nation’s data and create clearly defined politics. However, far from the truth, it might sound there are living breathing examples of AI as a candidate to run for office. 


During the presidential elections in Russia, a person named “Alice” ran as a nominee. She ran her campaign using slogans like “the political system of the future” and “the president who knows you best.”However, Alice wasn’t a she but an “it”. Alice was an artificial intelligence system created by Yandex; the Russian version of Google. While Alice didn’t win, she did receive 25,000 votes.

Alice was an artificial intelligence system created by Yandex

Alice isn’t the only AI to run for office. In April, 2018, during a mayoral race within a small section of Tokyo, an AI named “Michihito Matsuda” placed third with 4,000 votes. His campaign slogan: ”Artificial intelligence will change Tama City.

Michihito Matsuda
Alongside Alice and Michihito is SAM, an AI from New Zealand. SAM, who is referred to as a she, is being created to run in the 2020 general elections and has been called the first virtual politician in the world. Today, SAM is reaching out to voters through Facebook Messenger and is sharing her thoughts on climate change, healthcare and education, among other topics.

SAM, an AI from New Zealand

The question now is — Will an AI-politician make flawless decisions once elected?

There are several layers to the question. Algorithmic decisions aren’t an ideal solution. They can be rooted with prejudice and bias of their programmers or manipulated to garner specific outcomes. Computational decisions can prove to be adverse, making the results as potentially problematic as the ones made by humans.


Did you vote because of AI?

AI can be used to send political messages that are deceitful and fake, by analyzing the unique psychographic and behavioural user profiles of voters. 

AI generated videos, namely deep fakes are being widely used to spread disinformation. Deep fake technology  in politics has continued to gain momentum, they are being used to create fake news, malicious hoaxes and financial fraud. Below is an example of how indistinguishable a person can look by the implementation of deep fakes.

On 4 May 2016, Jimmy Fallon, the host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, appeared in a sketch dressed as Donald Trump, then the Republican presidential candidate. The video shows Trump calling Obama to flaunt his latest win in Indiana.

Personalized messages that highlight a different side of a particular argument can be sent to influence the masses. Every voter gets a different version of the candidate that is in line with their expectations. This, in turn, helps the candidate in garnering a general opinion that is in his/her favour.


It is easy to hold AI technology guilty for the World’s malice. Algorithmic tools embedded with prejudice and bias of their programmers are used to manipulate and mislead could equally be repurposed to support democracy.


Can AI be used for good in politics?

If a voter is interested in the country’s economic situation, AI can be used to help the voter to find out what each party has to say about this topic. Politicians can leverage AI to better listen to what their voters have to say. By analyzing the online behaviour of voters which includes their data consumption patterns, relationships, and social media patterns, unique psychographic and behavioural user profiles could be created. Based on these insights, they can deploy micro-targeting advertising campaigns to educate voters based on their individual psychology; on a variety of political issues to persuade people to vote for the party that meets their expectations.


AI as a technology at its core has no spiteful origin of its own. To treat it as a boon or a bane is the choice of an individual to make. 

Would you prefer it if policy decisions were made by AI instead of human politicians?


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