Microsoft’s efforts to enhance the security of Indian elections

This year, an unprecedented number of individuals are exercising their right to vote, marking a historic election year. With 64 countries representing 49% of the world population going through elections, the future of our planet is being shaped through the power of the ballot box – which is why it is important for us to work together to help build secure and resilient election processes.  

At Microsoft, we are committed to supporting elections worldwide, and our efforts in India are a testament to this commitment. In the wake of the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, Microsoft pledged with other participating companies to help prevent deceptive AI content from interfering with this year’s global elections in which more than four billion people in over 40 countries will vote.  

We ground our Microsoft’s Election Protection Commitments in a set of principles to help safeguard voters, candidates and campaigns, and election authorities worldwide. These principles are: 

  • Voters have a right to transparent and authoritative information regarding elections. 
  • Candidates should be able to assert when content originates from their campaign and have recourse when their likeness or content is distorted by AI to deceiving the public during an election. 
  • Political campaigns should protect themselves from cyber threats and be able to navigate AI with access to affordable and easily deployed tools, trainings, and support. 
  • Election authorities should be able to ensure a secure and resilient election process and have access to tools and services that enable this process. 

Microsoft’s latest Threat Analysis Center (MTAC) report that was published in April 2024 revealed that bad actors are relentlessly exploiting cyber and influence operations to target election infrastructure, campaigns, and voters. They are not only using traditional techniques, but also harnessing AI and other new technologies to undermine the integrity of electoral systems and threaten public trust. Given the technology-based nature of the threats involved, governments, technology companies, the business community, and civil society need to adopt new initiatives, including by building on each other’s work.  

As we continue to implement the Tech Accord commitment to Combat Deceptive Use of AI in 2024 Elections, we’ve taken multiple steps in protecting electoral processes as part of our strategy to  advance democracy around the globe.? 

Training programs 

Staying ahead and responding to threats against voters, candidates, political campaigns, and election authorities will require a combination of steps, including a range of tools and tactics. As deepfakes and misinformation surge globally, it’s more important than ever to have resources that provide tools to use to identify deepfakes, and mechanisms to report them.  Recently, we conducted several training programs for government departments, and civil society to educate them on identifying deepfakes and offered tools available to protect against deepfakes. These tools include content provenance, checking an image’s content authenticity, deepfake reporting, and information literacy tools for an informed public. 

Recognizing the urgent need to address the misuse of multimedia and text generative AI, we also engaged with key actors in the fact checking ecosystem in India. We conducted a workshop aimed at empowering stakeholders dealing with mis/disinformation, with the knowledge, tools, and strategies necessary to identify, mitigate, and counteract the harmful effects of AI-driven mis/disinformation campaigns. The workshop was attended by CSOs, fact checkers and journalists. 

Elections Communications Hub 

To help election administration officials and political parties address urgent security issues, we launched our Elections Communications Hub, a new service that enabled them to communicate their concerns with us and get prioritized support. The service supports democratic governments around the world as they build secure and resilient election processes and is available for Microsoft customers who are part of Elections Management Bodies (EMBs) at the national or local/province levels, or who work for national and state-level political parties that use our products. 

“How to Vote” resources 

To engage the public at large, we launched “How to Vote” resources on Bing with localized language versions for the Indian Election results and How to Vote answers in 10 Indian languages. These resources were made accessible via the Windows Dynamic Search Box and the new tab page on Edge browsers activated on April 19, the first polling day of the season.  

By working together with government, local civic organizations and others, we can continue to strengthen and safeguard our electoral processes from nation state interference, protect the electoral process and continue to gain public trust in our democracy, and we as Microsoft remain committed to protecting democratic elections.