AI and Democracy’s Digital Identity Crisis

Essay by Shrey Jain, Connor Spelliscy, Samuel Vance-Law and Scott Moore: “AI-enabled tools have become sophisticated enough to allow a small number of individuals to run disinformation campaigns of an unprecedented scale. Privacy-preserving identity attestations can drastically reduce instances of impersonation and make disinformation easy to identify and potentially hinder. By understanding how identity attestations are positioned across the spectrum of decentralization, we can gain a better understanding of the costs and benefits of various attestations. In this paper, we discuss attestation types, including governmental, biometric, federated, and web of trust-based, and include examples such as e-Estonia, China’s social credit system, Worldcoin, OAuth, X (formerly Twitter), Gitcoin Passport, and EAS. We believe that the most resilient systems create an identity that evolves and is connected to a network of similarly evolving identities that verify one another. In this type of system, each entity contributes its respective credibility to the attestation process, creating a larger, more comprehensive set of attestations. We believe these systems could be the best approach to authenticating identity and protecting against some of the threats to democracy that AI can pose in the hands of malicious actors. However, governments will likely attempt to mitigate these risks by implementing centralized identity authentication systems; these centralized systems could themselves pose risks to the democratic processes they are built to defend. We therefore recommend that policymakers support the development of standards-setting organizations for identity, provide legal clarity for builders of decentralized tooling, and fund research critical to effective identity authentication systems…(More)”