The Authoritarian Data Problem

Issue Date October 2023
Volume 34
Issue 4
Page Numbers 141–50
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As the race to develop artificial intelligence (AI) accelerates, access to more and higher quality data is becoming increasingly crucial for AI systems. Yet the search for more data for AI facilitates information flow between authoritarian and democratic states in a way that has important implications for the behavior and output of AI. In particular, the homogenization of data, through institutions such as censorship and propaganda in authoritarian regimes can influence the output of AI developed in democracies. On the other hand, data from democracies provide valuable information for AI that is used for repressive purposes in authoritarian regimes. The authors call for greater scholarly and policy attention on the dual effect of the two-way AI-mediated data flow between democratic and authoritarian states and lay out a research agenda that would enable us to better understand the political influences on AI.

About the Authors

Eddie Yang

Eddie Yang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science of the University of California, San Diego. He has also been affiliated with the Plural Technology Collaboratory and was an intern at Microsoft Research.

View all work by Eddie Yang

Margaret E. Roberts

Margaret E. Roberts is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute of the University of California, San Diego.

View all work by Margaret E. Roberts