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A lot went wrong after the 2020 US elections. But one thing went right: a risk everyone was concerned about – interference in foreign elections – has largely failed.
This has shown what is possible when government officials and tech companies focus on a problem, coordinate effectively, and learn from their past mistakes.
But the wrong narration The fact that the election was stolen and culminated in a mob attack on the US Capitol also indicated the limits of these efforts. The Russians or the Chinese did not de-legitimize our choice. We did it to ourselves.
Today I want to explore the half full glass view. The largely averted risk of interference in foreign elections was a success that should not be overlooked.
What went wrong the last time?
First, let me remind you what happened in the 2016 elections. Russian hacker stolen documents from the Democratic National Committee and tried to play around with state electoral infrastructure. Digital propagandists With the support of the Russian government, information was also spread on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and elsewhere that was intended to undermine people’s trust in votes or spark social divisions.
Powerful American institutions – especially local, state, and federal government officials and large Internet companies – have been slow to address or have had the problem initially dismissed. The effect of hacking and trolling wasn’t clearThe concern, however, was that foreign governments would regularly try to disrupt US elections, and that doing so would contribute to Americans no longer trusting our systems and each other.
What happened in 2020
Some foreign governments, including Russia and Iran have tried to disrupt our elections again, but for the most part it has not worked. The same U.S. institutions and digital defenses that had failed four years earlier held up largely strong this time around.
“The progress made between 2016 and 2020 has been remarkable,” he said Camille François, Chief Innovation Officer at Graphika, a company that analyzes the manipulation of social networks.
What has changed in government and technology?
An important change after 2016 was that government officials, as well as state and local officials conducting elections, have overcome initial suspicions in order to work together more effectively on threats to vote. Matt Masterson, who until recently was senior election security advisor to the Department of Homeland Security, said the coordination is the biggest change that has helped strengthen digital defense in election management systems.
“This is as good as, in my experience, the federal government has worked on any subject,” said Masterson.
He also attributed efforts in states, particularly Georgia, that were created Paper traces from voting slips that could be checked and bid quickly more insight into the vote count to increase people’s confidence in the electoral process.
The tech companies, said François, switched to recognize their blind spots. For the first time, online powers like Facebook wrote guidelines specifically addressing interference by foreign governments and mandated those responsible to stop it. they also made it harder for foreign trolls to use some of their tactics for 2016, such as buying online advertising to spread divisive messages widely.
Social media companies also started publicly announce when they found campaigns by foreign governments that misled people online. François said it helped researchers and journalists better evaluate the techniques of foreign propagandists – and the knowledge shared helped internet companies stop trolling campaigns before they had a big impact.
Cooperation between government and technology companies also improved. There was regular meetings between large Internet companies and the federal officials responsible for election protection to exchange information. And internet companies started telling the public about it when the US government warned them of foreign interference on their websites.
Both François and Masterson said an “aha” moment came in response to Iran’s efforts to intimidate voters in the fall. National security guards said Then Iran had received voter registration data from some Americans, most of which was publicly available for broadcast misleading news that threatened the voters.
By being ready for such threats, officials were able to link the intimidation of voters in multiple states, identify the source of the threatening messages, inform election officials across the country, and tell voters what was happening – all in about a day.
“That couldn’t have happened in 2016, and it probably couldn’t have happened in 2018,” said Masterson. “That’s what we all trained for.”
While internet companies and the U.S. government caught up with the kind of disruptions they faced in 2016, they did failed in the confrontation of the even trickier ones Challenge of an election campaign led by the president himself to cast doubt on the electoral process in spite of everything no substantial evidence. And foreign cyber attacks and Online propaganda The effort has certainly not stopped.
But it could have been a lot worse. Much went right in the elections because powerful institutions took the risk of hacking and trolling abroad seriously and rose to the challenge. This is a hopeful lesson for future elections, the pandemic and other crises.
Before we go …
It’s a strange time to get rich: My colleague Erin Griffith writes that a booming market for technology stocks and I.P.O.s created a conundrum for newly wealthy technologists. Buying a Ferrari in the middle of a pandemic could be difficult and pointless You pay to have Snoop Dogg lead cooking classes at Zoom or pile up in luxury vans for road trips.
How Online Shopping Affected These Smaller Businesses: Amy Haimerl spoke to Michigan grocery store owners, gym owners, and other smaller businesses on the relocation of their activities to online stores during the pandemic. For some of them, e-commerce helped them stay afloat, for others it was more of a hassle than help.
Children who spend more time online are … complicated: Screen Time “as a concept for meticulously tracking, fretting and panicking to measure parenting worth – is no longer considered a valid framework in a pandemic world,” according to a Washington Post author said.
A train of ducklings Snake through an opening in half-frozen water.
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