The Oregon Secretary of State’s office finds itself embroiled in controversy as its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor election information during the 2022 election cycle sparks a legal dispute. The allegations involve the identification of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation (MDM) related to the electoral process, with the state facing scrutiny over potential suppression of free speech.
AI monitoring in 2022 elections
In a bid to address concerns over election integrity, the Oregon Secretary of State employed Logically AI, a U.K.-based company, for a pilot project during the 2022 midterms. The AI was tasked with flagging MDM narratives online, particularly those casting doubt on mail-in ballots and alleging voter and election fraud in Oregon.
State legislators raised alarm bells, calling for an immediate halt to the “Misinformation, Disinformation, and Mal-information (MDM) Analysis Platform Services” contract. The legislators contend that the system’s purpose is to actively manipulate free speech, presenting a potential infringement on Oregonians’ constitutional rights.
Responding to concerns, the Oregon Secretary of State clarified that a contract with Logically AI had not been finalized post the pilot project. The office detailed plans for a system aiming to review publicly available information and notify authorities of potential threats and misinformation, drawing parallels to a Google news alert.
Reports indicate that the secretary of state’s office faced challenges with social media companies ignoring instances of false information about election operations during the 2022 election. The office asserted its inability to remove information from the internet, emphasizing a commitment to protecting democracy while acknowledging the absence of authority to curb free speech.
Legal battle unfolds
State legislators escalated their concerns, filing a lawsuit against state executives, seeking a preliminary injunction to halt any work under the anti-MDM contract. The lawsuit contends that the purpose of the system raises constitutional concerns by continually monitoring and potentially manipulating free speech in Oregon.
The controversy in Oregon draws parallels with Arizona, where the Secretary of State’s office flagged a Twitter account for review following the 2022 midterm elections. The Arizona case involves allegations of collusion between the administration and Big Tech regarding online censorship, reflecting a broader concern across states regarding the handling of election-related information.
As the legal battle in Oregon unfolds, questions surrounding the balance between addressing misinformation and protecting free speech continue to loom. The use of AI in monitoring election information is not unique to Oregon, with similar practices emerging in other states. The evolving landscape raises important considerations about the role of technology, the responsibilities of social media platforms, and the delicate balance required to safeguard both electoral integrity and constitutional rights. The outcome of the lawsuit will undoubtedly set precedents for the use of AI in monitoring and addressing election-related information across the United States.