The impact of AI on elections and freedom of expression: Register now for new free online course in five languages

The rise of artificial intelligence and other new technologies presents opportunities and challenges for journalists and communicators during elections. As a record number of people worldwide prepare to go to the polls this year, the need to understand the impact of technology on democratic processes has never been more urgent.

To prepare key stakeholders for this super election year, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, in collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), is thrilled to announce the launch of a free multilingual online course aimed at understanding the role of AI in elections.

“Freedom of Expression, Artificial Intelligence, and Elections” is a massive open online course (MOOC) that will run from April 2 to April 30, 2024, and is being offered simultaneously in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Freedom of Expression, AI and Elections

“As we witness a historic year with the unprecedented use of generative AI and other digital technologies in an unprecedented number of elections, this MOOC underscores the critical need to manage the opportunities and risks associated with AI and its effects on democratic processes, including to the full exercise of freedom of expression,” said Sylvie Coudray, Director of UNESCO’s  Division for Freedom of Expression, Media Development and Media and Information Literacy. “By cooperating with UNDP and the Knight Center, UNESCO aims to equip participants with practical tools and ideas to safeguard the integrity of electoral processes in the face of evolving technological landscapes.”

During this course, participants will explore AI’s influence on elections, enabling them to spot threats like disinformation and hate speech. The course offers important practical skills, such as media literacy and using AI detection tools, while also delving into ethical considerations for transparent and credible elections.

The course will be led by Albertina Piterbarg,  a senior electoral expert and journalist working in UNESCO’s Freedom of Expression and Security of Journalists section. For more than 20 years, Piterbarg has dedicated her expertise to the fields of communication, electoral processes, and women’s engagement in politics across various international organizations. She has undertaken missions in countries including Niger, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Libya, East-Timor, New Caledonia, Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and Venezuela, among others.

Joining her are three technical instructors:

  • Prateek Sibal, a Program Specialist at UNESCO in Paris, spearheads global AI and digital transformation initiatives. He represents UNESCO at GlobalPolicy.AI, consults internationally, and teaches digital government at the international research university Sciences Po in Paris.
  • Tatiana Monney, an electoral expert at UNDP, specializes in dialogue and conflict prevention. With 20 years of experience working with the UN, Swiss FDFA, and EU, she has served as a Senior Electoral Adviser for the European External Action Service and facilitated negotiations processes between electoral management bodies and political parties worldwide.
  • Osama Aljaber, UNDP’s Digital Democracy Specialist in New York, leverages technology and AI to enhance democratic processes. He supports institutions, civil society, and media in information integrity and electoral support, and has established networks promoting democracy and digital participation. Aljaber holds an MA in Data, Culture, and Society from the University of Westminster and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Hashemite University.

Assistant instructors will further support the team across the French, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic, courses. Julie Godignon, a consultant specializing in electoral assistance and observation, will assist in French. Lucas Novaes Ferreira, formerly a communication specialist at UNESCO focusing on freedom of expression and journalist protection, will be assisting in Portuguese. Cristina Perez Claeys, an independent consultant in political assessment and electoral process analysis, will be the assistant instructor in Spanish. Lastly, Anass Bendriff, an expert and trainer in media and communication with over 18 years of experience in the field, will assist in Arabic.

Through a combination of video lectures, readings, discussions, and quizzes, participants can engage with the course materials at their own pace, completing activities and participating in discussions as their schedules allow. Whether you’re an electoral practitioner, journalist, member of a civil society organization, student, educator, or simply a concerned citizen, this course encourages people from various backgrounds to collaborate in influencing the trajectory of democracy in the digital era.

The course material is organized into four modules.

  • Module 1 introduces participants to the intersection of AI and freedom of expression in electoral contexts, exploring international standards and the ethical implications of AI.
  • Module 2 delves into the challenges of disinformation, hate speech, and gender-based violence in elections, examining AI’s role and strategies for mitigation.
  • Module 3 focuses on collaborative responses to combat harmful AI-generated content, emphasizing tools and strategies for various stakeholders.
  • Module 4 equips participants with individual skills and tools to address harmful practices in information integrity during elections, emphasizing ethical considerations and practical strategies.

Upon successful completion of course requirements, participants are eligible for a free certificate of completion. No formal academic credit is associated with the certificate.

“In an era where digital technologies and AI are becoming increasingly central to society’s architecture, it’s critical to emphasize the need to ensure they uphold rather than weaken human rights,” said Sarah Lister, head of Governance for the UNDP’s, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support (BPPS). “In this context, we hope this course will serve as a timely resource, preparing participants to navigate the unique complexities of the electoral super year.”

“The Knight Center is proud to offer this important multilingual online course and grateful to UNESCO and UNDP for making possible this project, which will benefit journalists, communicators in general and concerned citizens around the world during this super election year,” said professor Rosental Alves, UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and founding director of the Knight Center.

Join us in this exciting course to better understand the role of technology in democracy, freedom of expression, and electoral integrity.

Enroll today and be part of the conversation on AI and elections.

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