False election declarations undermine efforts to increase security

Officials say the biggest threat facing the U.S. election is not Russian hacking or national election fraud, but misinformation and misinformation increasingly undermining the public’s perception of the safety of the vote.

Since the 2016 vote, Congress has allocated millions of dollars to states to try to beef up cybersecurity and replace outdated and vulnerable voting machines, but even as improvements are made, trust in the system is eroding.

“I think the biggest vulnerability is disinformation, that these machines don’t work as expected,” said Thomas Hicks, commissioner of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), appointed by the former president obamaBarack Hussein Obama The memo: Progressives rejoice in new power Photos of the week: a congressional baseball game, ash trees and a beach horse Judge questions private application of abortion law in Texas PLUS, said Thursday at a virtual event hosted by Freedom House, the Bush Institute, Issue One and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

EAC President Donald Palmer appointed by former President TrumpDonald Trump’s Red Queen Justice Biden: How He Destroyed Both Investigation and Border Officer Reputation Trump Asks Judge To Force Twitter To Lift Ban Trump Teases Schumer About Occasional Ocasio Challenge Cortez MORE, agreed with Hicks, telling The Hill on Friday that “our systems are secure, and they have been tested and are secure, and the misinformation about those systems, which damages voter confidence.”

Concerns about deceptive allegations that jeopardize the elections are not new, but have gained public attention after 2016. In the months leading up to November, Russian government hackers targeted electoral infrastructure in all 50 states, gaining access successfully voter registration systems in two of them, but no votes. have been changed.

The Russian Internet Research Agency has also used sites such as Facebook and Twitter to spread disinformation in order to influence the election in Trump’s favor. A Facebook official later told Congress that more than 126 million people may have viewed Internet Research Agency content before the 2016 election.

Political parties were not spared the efforts, with the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee falling victim to the GRU’s Russian intelligence hacking efforts in 2016 which involved the theft and publication of thousands of documents. .

Following revelations in reports released by the Senate Intelligence Committee and former special advisers Robert muellerRobert (Bob) Mueller Senate Democrats urge Garland not to challenge court order to release Trump’s obstruction memo Why a special advocate is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo, or Jones as AG Barr hires a lawyer investigating the origins of Russia as Special Advocate PLUS, efforts to strengthen election security have become a priority.

Congress allocated more than $ 800 million to states between 2018 and 2020 to improve technology, strengthen cybersecurity, and deal with election changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the shift to more paper-based voting and by mail.

In February, EAC commissioners unanimously approved the Guidelines on Voluntary Voting Systems 2.0 to review and improve voting equipment standards, with Hicks noting that the guidelines were “being implemented as we let’s talk “.

“Our systems are secure, but it’s older technology, and we need to stay one step ahead of our adversaries by switching to the latest cyber technology, and that’s the latest consensus of the electoral community, it’s is why we adopted 2.0, ”Palmer said on Friday.

But with Trump and his allies clinging to false allegations of widespread voter fraud in last November’s election, the improvements could do little to increase public confidence.

Liz Howard served as Assistant Commissioner of Elections in Virginia in 2016 and helped oversee the decertification of voting machines that did not have paper records as a result of that election. Howard told The Hill on Friday that although election security had become “light years” since then, she was increasingly concerned about public perception.

“We know how to secure our infrastructure and protect it from hacking, but we don’t know how to protect people from hacking, and that is absolutely one of the biggest concerns we see going forward,” Howard, who currently serves as said senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice.

Republican concerns about the integrity of the elections led to the controversial recent months-long audit of the 2020 presidential election in Maricopa County, Arizona, which confirmed President BidenJoe Biden Progressives hit back after moderates targeted Pelosi John Kerry expresses optimism about the upcoming climate summit. Biden’s Justice Red Queen: How he destroyed both the investigation and the reputation of border officers MORE, but inspired similar audits in other states.

Polls have shown that a majority of GOP voters believe Biden won by fraud, despite no supporting evidence. Among the repeated allegations by Trump and his supporters are allegations against Dominion Voting Systems that the company considers libelous – and has filed billion dollar lawsuits.

In response to growing concerns about the security of the elections, officials have taken action.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the federal agency responsible for securing critical infrastructure, including elections, created a “rumor control” surrounding the 2020 election, which angered Trump and caused the dismissal or resignation of the leaders of the CISA.

Current CISA director Jen Easterly said last week that despite the controversy, the page would remain open for future elections to debunk the misleading claims. Geoff Hale, director of the Election Security Initiative at CISA, told The Hill that the CISA is at full speed in the fight against fake news in electoral space, including rolling out graphic novels covering how foreign nations and threat actors were spreading disinformation and how to spot it.

“Malicious information certainly poses a risk,” Hale said Friday. “There is an opportunity to educate the public not only on the high level manner in which elections are organized, implemented in the administration of elections, and the opportunities for transparency throughout the process. “

CISA has worked with social media companies to tackle disinformation and disinformation during elections, with companies also taking action since 2016 to make it harder for foreign and domestic threat actors to influence elections through their platforms. .

“I think we have developed a strong working relationship with many social media platforms,” ​​said Hale, stressing that “our mission is to give good risk management advice to all of our stakeholders.”

But often these efforts are not enough. Ahead of the recall election in California in September, a coalition of advocacy groups wrote to leaders of Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube warning them of a massive threat to the security of the electoral process posed by false election statements.

One of the organizations that signed the letter was Decode Democracy, which aims to tackle disinformation online and work to hold social media companies accountable.

Ann Ravel, policy director of Decode Democracy, told The Hill on Friday that while the US election was “absolutely safer” than in 2016, disinformation and misinformation had “exploded” in the years that followed.

“It really has an impact on what people think is disinformation, both after the election and before the election, and so it certainly causes this explosion of people’s lack of confidence in the electoral process, which is a worrying problem for our democracy, ”says Ravel.

Many experts believe that the future of tackling disinformation and disinformation that undermines public confidence in elections may lie in education and building confidence voices.

“It is essential that voters look to state and local election officials for accurate information on how elections are administered and secured in their jurisdiction,” an Association spokesperson told The Hill. National Heads of State Elections. “Every American has a role to play in election security because an informed public is the best defense against misinformation and disinformation. “

CISA’s Hale stressed that promoting “safe practices” would help restore confidence in elections among the public, with Howard separately advocating for a unified approach to tackling misleading information in the electoral space.

“It’s a race without a finish line, you have to be constantly vigilant, there will always be work to do,” said Howard.

“It is going to take a team effort to respond and combat the scourge of misinformation and disinformation that we face.”

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