Next Generation Urban Planning: Enabling Sustainable Development at the Local Level through Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs)

Next Generation Urban Planning: Enabling Sustainable Development at the Local Level through Voluntary Local Reviews (VLRs). Brookings Institution. Anthony F. Pipa and Max Bouchet. February 9, 2020

Around the world, cities are evolving at an unprecedented pace, grappling with profound challenges driven by urbanization, demographics, and climate change. City leaders face extraordinary pressures to manage this growth and implement sustainable development strategies. As United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently remarked, “With more than half the world’s population, cities are on the frontlines of sustainable and … inclusive development.”

Global trends of rapid urbanization exacerbate the local urgency for sustainable development. Climate change and migration have very localized effects that require localized solutions. The risk to physical and civic infrastructures, and social cohesion and safety, creates new complexity for local governments. Cities are also where inequality takes on a visible human face, with rich and poor physically intermingling, bound together by place and economic and social relationships. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 38 pages].

Is Seeing Still Believing? The Deepfake Challenge to Truth in Politics

Is Seeing Still Believing? The Deepfake Challenge to Truth in Politics. Brookings Institution. William A. Galston. January 8, 2020

On Nov. 25, an article headlined “Spot the deepfake. (It’s getting harder.)” appeared on the front page of The New York Times business section. The editors would not have placed this piece on the front page a year ago. If they had, few would have understood what its headline meant. Today, most do. This technology, one of the most worrying fruits of rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI), allows those who wield it to create audio and video representations of real people saying and doing made-up things. As this technology develops, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish real audio and video recordings from fraudulent misrepresentations created by manipulating real sounds and images. “In the short term, detection will be reasonably effective,” says Subbarao Kambhampati, a professor of computer science at Arizona State University. “In the longer run, I think it will be impossible to distinguish between the real pictures and the fake pictures.” [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

Tax Incentives for Charitable Contributions

Tax Incentives for Charitable Contributions.   Urban Institute. Rob McClelland et al.  November, 12 2019

This Chartbook explores the implications of current law income tax incentives for charitable donations along with several alternatives for tax deductions that are more universally available. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 17 pages].

Fighting Deepfakes When Detection Fails

Fighting Deepfakes When Detection Fails. Brookings Institution. Alex Engler. November 14, 2019

Deepfakes intended to spread misinformation are already a threat to online discourse, and there is every reason to believe this problem will become more significant in the future. So far, most ongoing research and mitigation efforts have focused on automated deepfake detection, which will aid deepfake discovery for the next few years. However, worse than cybersecurity’s perpetual cat-and-mouse game, automated deepfake detection is likely to become impossible in the relatively near future, as the approaches that generate fake digital content improve considerably. In addition to supporting the near-term creation and responsible dissemination of deepfake detection technology, policymakers should invest in discovering and developing longer-term solutions. Policymakers should take actions that:

  • Support ongoing deepfake detection efforts with continued funding through DARPA’s MediFor program, as well as adding new grants to support collaboration between detection efforts and training journalists and fact-checkers to use these tools.
  • Create an additional stream of funding awards for the development of new tools, such as reverse video search or blockchain-based verification systems, that may better persist in the face of undetectable deepfakes.
  • Encourage the release of large social media datasets for social science researchers to study and explore solutions to viral misinformation and disinformation campaigns. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[HTML format, various paging].

The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding

The Democracy Playbook: Preventing and Reversing Democratic Backsliding. Brookings Institution. Norman Eisen et al. November 2019

The Democracy Playbook sets forth strategies and actions that supporters of liberal democracy can implement to halt and reverse democratic backsliding and make democratic institutions work more effectively for citizens. The strategies are deeply rooted in the evidence: what the scholarship and practice of democracy teach us about what does and does not work. We hope that diverse groups and individuals will find the syntheses herein useful as they design catered, context-specific strategies for contesting and resisting the illiberal toolkit. This playbook is organized into two principal sections: one dealing with actions that domestic actors can take within democracies, including retrenching ones, and the second section addressing the role of international actors in supporting and empowering pro-democracy actors on the ground. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 100 pages].

Fighting Disinformation Online: A Database of Web Tools

Fighting Disinformation Online: A Database of Web Tools. RAND Corporation. Jennifer Kavanagh, Hilary Reininger, Norah Griffin. November 12, 2019

The rise of the internet and the advent of social media have fundamentally changed the information ecosystem, giving the public direct access to more information than ever before. But it’s often nearly impossible to distinguish between accurate information and low-quality or false content. This means that disinformation — false or intentionally misleading information that aims to achieve an economic or political goal — can become rampant, spreading further and faster online than it ever could in another format.

As part of its Truth Decay initiative, RAND is responding to this urgent problem. Researchers identified and characterized the universe of online tools developed by nonprofits and civil society organizations to target online disinformation. The tools in this database are aimed at helping information consumers, researchers, and journalists navigate today’s challenging information environment. Researchers identified and characterized each tool on a number of dimensions, including the type of tool, the underlying technology, and the delivery format.