Microsoft's 'Democracy Forward' Initiative Aims to Manipulate Our Society
Plans to To 'Shape Information Ecosystem', 'Integrate Into Election Software', 'Provide Election Security', and much more
Microsoft, founded in 1975 by Bill Gates, is a software firm that developed and owns monopoly rights to the famous Windows operating system.
My readers might be surprised to learn that Microsoft’s interests go far beyond the computer software market and involve inserting itself into every aspect of many civil societies’ decision-making. Its plans affect the most essential parts of our collective, democratic decision-making in ways that raise multiple questions.
Take a look at its “Democracy Forward” initiative.
Microsoft is actively doing the following (direct quotes below):
Deeply involves itself with elections in various countries, emphasizing what it calls “election integrity”.
Provides software called ElectionGuard to be integrated with all election software systems to be used along with vote counting.
Preserves and supports journalism (that aligns with Microsoft’s goals) and helps with pre-publication review (!).
Helps local publications create business models for sustainable journalism, thus sponsoring journalism.
Partners with NewsGuard, a “trust” service ranking news sources based on highly biased fact-checks.
All of the above efforts are highly partisan and quite peculiar.
Microsoft aims to control discourse and elections in many ways, allowing it to steer our decision-making process to benefit Microsoft or its leadership. Let’s consider their activities a bit more closely:
Microsoft aims to “support trustworthy news sources,” leaving the selection of outfits to be supported mainly to itself.
Working directly in five communities across the country, Microsoft, in partnership with community foundations and other organizations, is providing new tools, technology, and capacity to explore hybrid business models for sustainable journalism to journalists and newsrooms.
I am sure that newsrooms and journalists, generously supported by Microsoft, will gladly provide Microsoft-friendly sustainable journalism.
Microsoft also wants to vet content provenance to filter the content journalists would report. As it proudly explains further, it works on filtering all content, using AI to decide what is or is not trustworthy and, therefore, should not be reported on:
Some 93% of these campaigns included the creation of original content, 86% amplified pre-existing content and 74% distorted objectively verifiable facts. Recent reports also show that disinformation has been distributed about the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to deaths and hospitalizations of people seeking supposed cures that are actually dangerous.
Our readers are very familiar with Covid-19 fact-checking and news-vetting, which never allowed even a bit of criticism of Covid vaccines.
Microsoft is intent on embedding itself into the election process. Many webpages linked by the “Democracy Forward” initiative describe multi-pronged efforts to “help manage elections”.
First of all, Microsoft wants to be in the vote-counting and vote-ascertainment business:
ElectionGuard is a free open-source software developer toolkit (SDK) that, when integrated into a voting system, provides voters and the public with reassurance that votes were counted accurately.
Microsoft’s plans for election involvement are massive. It also wants to manage cyber security of every election:
Today, we are announcing several steps our Defending Democracy program is taking to help our democratic processes become more resilient in light of all these threats. First, starting today, we’re expanding our Defending Democracy Program to include a new service, Election Security Advisors, which will give political campaigns and election officials hands-on help securing their systems and recovering from cyberattacks.
Microsoft also wants to host election officials, giving it unprecedented access to the daily activities of elections offices:
Second, we are expanding our AccountGuard threat notification service to cover the offices of U.S. election officials and the U.S. Congress as many are working remotely.
Microsoft also wants to host all campaigns, like the Kennedy for President campaign. (I hope RFK sees through this and hosts elsewhere)
Third, we are extending Microsoft 365 for Campaigns to state-level campaigns and parties. And, finally, we are publishing our public policy recommendations for securing elections, including ways to secure them while confronting the COVID-19 public health crisis.
It is very nice how Microsoft wants to manage both cyber security as well as vote counting. Is that a safe idea, though? Shouldn’t these functions be separated?
Microsoft sponsors and supports NewsGuard:
NewsGuard, an expansive initiative to vet news sources and dismiss “untrustworthy” news media, claims to be non-partisan but, in reality, is anything but. As this article explains, it bases its decisions on fact-checks by highly partisan fact-checkers.
NewsGuard, not surprisingly, has always been deferential to all interests of Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, such as climate change, vaccines, and so on.
This is Dangerous!
We have a commercial, public company (Microsoft) that is in the business of selling software and business cloud services.
For some reason, that firm is showing strange interest in inserting itself into the most intimate parts of the democratic process. It seeks to subvert decision-making procedures that our democracies rely on, such as the selection of news outlets to be trusted, vetting of news stories, and sponsorships of journalists.
Microsoft wants to both manage election security as well as be involved in vote counting. This creates unique risks and concerns that we need to understand better.
I do not believe that in a good democratic system, we can allow one big company to be so deeply embedded in the fabric of our social process, essentially allowing it to control our news sources, our thinking, security of elections, and vote counting.
One company controlling the societal discourse, voting security, and having involvement in vote counting could happen in a banana republic but would be inappropriate for a mature democratic society.
Are you concerned about the efforts of Bill Gates and Microsoft? Are my worries unjustified? Is there a major power grab going on? Are we a banana republic, and do we deserve this, or do we deserve better?