May 10, 2023 - Technology

The trust-nothing election

Illustration of a smartphone with a black and white spiral on it dividing a red and blue background with elements of ballots.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Brace yourself for a new, scary dynamic in American politics: the trust-nothing era.

Why it matters: Two new trends are about to unfold in real time.

1. Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson are joining forces, each warning that you should trust nothing outside of Twitter.

  • Carlson announced via a video on Twitter Tuesday that "starting soon" he'll be "bringing a new version of the show" he's been doing at Fox News to Twitter.
  • Musk said he and Carlson "have not signed a deal of any kind whatsoever." But Axios learned they've discussed working together.

2.  The brains behind generative AI warned administration officials during a recent White House meeting of an imminent explosion of highly convincing and manipulative fake videos and stories in the run-up to the 2024 election.

  • Think fake news on steroids — and lighting up your screen.

What we're watching: You'll hear powerful voices on Twitter and other platforms imploring people to assume that everything from mainstream media is a lie. And authentic, computer-generated lies will give everyone reason to trust nothing.

  • "At the most basic level, the news you consume is a lie — a lie of the stealthiest and most insidious kind," Carlson said in a video announcing he plans to relaunch his show on Twitter. "Facts have been withheld on purpose along with proportion and perspective. You are being manipulated."
  • "Trust nothing, not even nothing," Musk tweeted Tuesday.

Reality check: Twitter itself is likely to be ground zero for the spread of AI-generated fakes and lies.

  • The mainstream media, which has studied up on misinformation over the past two elections, will be the first and best line of defense against those lies.

The big picture: Compared to the rest of the world, Americans are already much more skeptical of what they see on social media and what they're told by traditional media outlets.

What's next: As a trust gap widens, Americans will turn to unconventional sources to navigate an increasingly complicated world.

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