Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at a watch party event to mark the Super Tuesday primary elections at his Mar-a-Lago property, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. March 5, 2024. Image Credit: Reuters

Donald Trump is everywhere, from court rulings and fake AI images. That isn’t to say all publicity is good press or anyone is calling it out beyond a likely 2020 rematch between Trump and President Biden.

Just ahead of Super Tuesday — in cricketing terms a T-20 where 15 states vote for presidential candidates for the two major parties — the Republican presidential front-runner won a key legal victory after the US Supreme Court ruled — overturning Colorado Court ruling — that he could appear in ballot papers. The court says only Congress and not individual states can disqualify candidates; a judgement experts say sets a precedent, and not just a good one.

Several states had pushed to bar Trump as a candidate who had engaged in ‘insurrection,’ from holding a constitutional office. The door is now open experts fear for a future repeat of the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol from the maverick former president if things go south. Other potential candidates barred on similar grounds who watched this judgement keenly may have plans to make a comeback.

Both Biden and Trump won big on Super Tuesday. Everything will, however, come for nought for Trump in case of an unfavourable ruling in any of the four criminal trials he faces which are set to begin on March 25.

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Trump’s ride is predictable, there are the usual unfiltered rants and promises of putting the immigrations in their place. In an interview, he compares undocumented migrants to Hannibal Lecter, the cannibal from Silence of the Lambs and in a globally polarised electorate tilting right, this may even make sense and win him votes.

Nor is his promise of mass deportations, new. Biden may not have scored any points for the Gaza war, but to think Trump would have been better is to grossly underestimate him.

The free fall on the US Capitol apart, new allegations have also come up by a former official that Trump’s ‘White House’ was the wild west. That Trump lives life king size that he brings to his politics is not a revelation.

Read more by Jyotsna Mohan

Vulnerable to foreign actors

Meanwhile, AI as expected is making its role, a supporting one for now, felt in the elections. Trump supporters have allegedly been creating fake images of black supporters with the former President, in a bid to sway the African-American votes, a section of the population that voted for Biden in the last elections.

An investigation by BBC Panorama reported how one of those images had more than a million views, that is how quickly misinformation spreads on social media. In some key states, even a marginal shift in the black votes could make a difference with Biden. A recent poll shows a significant drop in the President’s black support base, down from 92% in 2020 to only 71% of Black voters in six key swing states.

Deepfakes are not costly and all it takes is one influencer to share it. So, while outside factors are easily controllable — not necessarily that easily in Trump’s case — it is the online battle that continues to be a cause for worry in these elections. Any misinformation is a ready-made platform and its cross-section with generative AI has made the US election process vulnerable to foreign actors.

The young, disenchanted with the US take on Gaza, are easily influenced on socials like TikTok where deepfakes and false news seldom have accountability. As with global trends, while a ballot is a one-time tick, what plays out in its countdown is several mini-wars online, and the more polarised a voter base, the more susceptible the people.

And it has already begun, a political consultant admitted to paying a magician to create a fake Biden robocall asking people to not vote in New Hampshire’s primary election. This is just the tip of the iceberg, where the known challenges — Trump in court — are on equal footing with the unexplored.

The US lags in putting safeguards and regulations in place and although it set up a task force in February, for now, it may be too little, too late. The onus is on the voter, and it’s a big weight. When it is a close call or swing votes, then a bot sharing misinformation could be the difference. Think about that.