WEF highlights misinformation threat

2024-01-11 11:10:15China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

The spread of misinformation and disinformation driven by artificial intelligence is the biggest short-term risk for the global economy this year, while environmental risks dominate the threats in the long-term, according to a new report.

The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2024, which was published on Wednesday ahead of the organization's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland next week, polled more than 1,400 global risks experts, policymakers, and industry leaders to learn about their concerns, including that false information could lead to increased societal polarization.

The report underscores the importance of dialogue in addressing climate change, demographic changes, technology and geopolitics, or changing "structural forces", which are making the world less stable, with experts asserting that while the challenges are significant, the capacity to respond remains substantial.

In a year when more than 40 countries will hold national elections, the report from the World Economic Forum, or WEF, emphasizes the substantial concern surrounding misinformation, which, it says, presents ample opportunity for "malicious actors" to create false information or produce "deepfake "videos.

The report states: "The impact and timeline of each risk area is different, and so is our chance of mitigating them; or preparing for them. And when combined, risks are heightened — conflict harms the planet directly and prevents much-needed collaborative action on climate change.

"Advances in AI can lead to cyber vulnerabilities. High interest rates expose small and medium-sized enterprises and heavily indebted countries to debt distress."

Carolina Klint, chief commercial officer for Europe at consultancy Marsh McLennan, which co-produced the report, said: "Artificial intelligence breakthroughs will radically disrupt the risk outlook for organizations with many struggling to react to threats arising from misinformation, disintermediation, and strategic miscalculation.

"At the same time, companies are having to negotiate supply chains made more complex by geopolitics and climate change and cyber threats from a growing number of malicious actors."

On cyber security, Sean Doyle, from the WEF's Cybercrime Atlas Initiative, said: "Technological development is making the cyber equity gap more stark within and between countries. This makes everyone more vulnerable, even the best-protected organizations."

Klint added: "It will take a relentless focus to build resilience at organizational, country, and international levels — and greater cooperation between the public and private sectors — to navigate this rapidly evolving risk landscape."

Climate change remains a top concern for business leaders, while the cost-of-living crisis and economic risks of inflation and downturn also remain in focus.

Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the WEF, said: "An unstable global order characterized by polarizing narratives and insecurity, the worsening impacts of extreme weather and economic uncertainty are causing accelerating risks — including misinformation and disinformation — to propagate.

"World leaders must come together to address short-term crises as well as lay the groundwork for a more resilient, sustainable, inclusive future."

The WEF says next week's annual meeting will focus on "rebuilding trust in an era of rapid change and increased fragmentation".

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