In Seoul, Blinken Warns of Disinformation Threat to Democracies

By John Mercury March 19, 2024

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken warned on Monday that a malicious “flood” of disinformation was threatening the world’s democracies, fueled in part by the swift rise of artificial intelligence, which he says sows “suspicion, cynicism and instability” around the globe.

Mr. Blinken spoke in Seoul at the Summit for Democracy, a global gathering organized by the Biden administration, which has made countering the authoritarian models of nations like Russia and China a top priority.

Mr. Blinken, who as a young man worked briefly as a journalist, said that changes to the international flow of information may be “the most profound” that he has experienced in his career, and that anti-democratic forces were exploiting those changes.

“Our competitors and adversaries are using disinformation to exploit fissures within our democracies,” he said.

He noted that countries totaling nearly half of the world’s population, including India, will hold elections this year under the threat of manipulated information. He did not mention the United States’ presidential election in November, which many analysts say could be influenced by foreign-directed information campaigns like the one Russia waged in 2016.

The U.S. promotes “digital and media literacy” programs abroad to help news consumers judge the reliability of content, Mr. Blinken said. But he cautioned that American adversaries were clever about laundering their propaganda and disinformation. China, for instance, has purchased cable television providers in Africa and then excluded international news channels from subscription packages, he said.

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