Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Allie Funk on the Intersection of Democracy and the Rise of AI Technology

Air Dates: January 29-February 4, 2024

Not so long ago, it was easy to get caught up in the triumphalism of the rise of big technology in our lives, including in democracy.  Allie Funk researches the complex and evolving role technology plays in democracy at home and around the world.

Funk leads Freedom House’s technology and democracy initiative, including Freedom on the Net, an annual survey and analysis of internet freedom around the world, Election Watch for the Digital Age, which tracks the intersection of elections, internet platforms, and human rights around the world and advocacy to protect a free and open internet.  She also represents Freedom House on the Freedom Online Coalition’s Advisory Network, and serves on the Global Network Initiative’s Board of Directors.  Her writing has been published in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, WIRED, Lawfare, the Hill, the Diplomat, and Just Security, among others.  Prior to joining Freedom House, Funk worked at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on issues relating to reforming U.S. surveillance practices, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and protecting the right to counsel, and also worked with Human Rights First’s foreign policy team.

On this episode of “Story in the Public Square,” Funk dives into the ways artificial intelligence is exacerbating digital repression, as it relates to disinformation, censorship and surveillance.  “We’re concerned that generative AI lowers the barrier of entry into the disinformation space.”  She says developments in AI capability have made it easy to create false and misleading information at scale, saying in recent studies, she and fellow researchers at Freedom House found generative AI recently being used “to sow doubt, to smear opponents, to discredit critics in 16 different countries.”  She continued, “it’s popping up in elections periods, around protests, in countries where you have political crises that is already ripe for problematic information.”  She adds, “we also found that generative AI is most disproportionately impacting women and other marginalized communities that are already facing increased threats from those in power.”

“Story in the Public Square” broadcasts each week on public television stations across the United States. A full listing of the national television distribution is available at this link. In Rhode Island and southeastern New England, the show is broadcast on Rhode Island PBS on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. An audio version of the program airs Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET, Sundays at 4:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 9:30 p.m. ET on SiriusXM’s popular P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), channel 124. “Story in the Public Square” is a project of the Pell Center at Salve Regina University. The initiative aims to study, celebrate and tell stories that matter.