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The Download: thermal energy networks, and AI propaganda

The news: Thirteen US states are now implementing underground thermal energy networks to reduce buildings’ carbon emissions as part of a nationwide push to adopt cleaner energy sources.

How it works: Thermal energy networks use pipe loops that connect multiple buildings and provide heating and cooling through water-source heat pumps. Geothermal heat is commonly used in these networks, and they can provide efficient, fossil fuel-free heating and cooling to commercial and residential buildings.

Looking to the future: While the projects are still at the planning and regulatory stage in most of the 13 states, construction is already underway in some, with some working towards the target of being operational by 2025. Read the full story.

—June Kim

How generative AI is boosting the spread of disinformation and propaganda

What’s happening: Artificial intelligence has turbocharged state efforts to crack down on internet freedoms over the past year. Governments around the world, in both democracies and autocracies, are using AI to generate texts, images, and video to manipulate public opinion and censor critical online content, a new report by Freedom House has found.

How it works: Generative AI is lowering the barrier of entry for disinformation campaigns, and automated systems are enabling governments to conduct more precise and more subtle forms of online censorship. 

The big picture: As AI-generated content on the internet becomes normalized, it’s going to allow political actors to cast doubt about reliable information too. Read the full story.

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