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Google hosts cybersecurity summit in Colorado as experts warn of threats to elections

Google dedicates team to combat misinformation about election
Google dedicates team to combat misinformation about election 03:29

Cybersecurity experts from around the country gathered at Google's Boulder campus this week for a summit focused on election threats.

Not only are there hundreds of races in Colorado, but half the world's population is casting ballots this year and at the same time advances in technology make it easier than ever for hacktivists to sow confusion, influence public perceptions and disrupt elections.

Karen Courington, Google's Vice President of Trust and Safety, says 2024 is like the Super Bowl of global elections.

"At the end of the day, it's what users see, and it's can you trust the content that you're seeing and that's what guides us in our mission," said Courington. 


Google has partnered with the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization Defending Digital Campaigns to raise awareness of potential threats and how to combat them.

Among those threats are deepfakes -- the use of artificial intelligence to mimic voices and alter videos. There are now apps that allow even unsophisticated hacktivists to make deepfakes so convincing it's difficult to discern what is real and what is fake.

Google says it was the first company to require political advertisers to disclose when they use deepfakes and is now using artificial intelligence to monitor for ads that don't comply and pull them.

"We're able to identify and catch these very, very quickly as well as prevent bad actors from coming on the platform in the first place," said Courington.   


Thao Nguyen Kelly, Google's global elections integrity lead, says the company also has tools to empower users to identify deepfakes.

"So for instance, if you Google an image, you can now click into that image to receive additional context on where that image has been used elsewhere on the internet. You can see when that image has been used. as well. For voters in particular, who are turning to Google for information about the elections process, we want them to be able to trust the information that they're seeing," Nguyen Kelly said. 

Google is equipping campaigns too with extra layers of security and threat detection tools.

Nguyen Kelly says the company has trained 9,000 campaign and election workers around the country in cybersecurity strategies.

"As a company we're thinking through these risks holistically, and that our processes, our policies, our products are ready to be able to address and mitigate any of those risks that may manifest for users," Nguyen Kelly said.


But Courington says it takes a village.

"It's a partnership. We know we can't do it alone as a tech company. We know we need government, civil society, and other organizations," Courington said. 

Congress and the Federal Trade Commission have not kept pace with the speed of innovation, leaving it up to the private sector and states to put guardrails in place. 

Colorado lawmakers passed a bill this year that requires disclosures on deepfakes, or the creators can face fines and lawsuits.

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