Disinformation campaigns and intimidation are undermining confidence in US elections, officials say

Kim Wyman, senior election adviser at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: on wednesday Intimidation of election officials and the spread of misinformation online about the voting process are jeopardizing efforts to ensure safe and secure elections across the United States.

Hearings were held after the Justice Department earlier this week provided an update On the work of the agency’s Election Threat Task Force, which was launched last year to investigate and address threats of violence and harm against election officials and workers. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, who leads the DOJ’s Criminal Division, told the committee that the task force, which includes CISA, several divisions of the DOJ, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the FBI’s Criminal Investigations Division, has so far filed about 1,000 cases. said it had investigated the threatening communications of About 11% of these messages meet the criteria for federal criminal investigations.

Wyman pointed out in her testimony The United States “faces ongoing threats from foreign cyber and influence operations targeting U.S. election infrastructure and voters,” but the threat of doxxing and violence will make recruitment of election officials more difficult, he said. Stated. And the persistent belief in some political corners that the U.S. electoral system is corrupt or rigged has already been driven by foreign adversaries seeking to exploit divisive conspiracy theories. It has been weaponized in some cases.

Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, Lori Aginoa former Washington state election administrator, after defending the accuracy of the 2020 election, she posted her home address, contact information, and a photo of herself with crosshairs on the web called “enemy of the people.” posted on the site. FBI and CISA statement In December 2020, it said it possessed “very credible information indicating that it was almost certain that Iranian cyber actors were involved in the creation” of the site, adding that this was “a It is part of Iran’s efforts to “undermine public confidence in the process.”

Wyman, who served as Washington’s secretary of state from 2013 to 2021, said CISA is working with DOJ and other law enforcement partners to investigate cases of doxxing and threats of violence against election officials and workers. Individuals “are paying attention to what’s on the internet.”

Election officials and election officials remain concerned about online disinformation and the spread of disinformation and believe this content fuels an ongoing conspiracy about the accuracy and safety of elections in the United States. .

Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal cited a poll of local election officials conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice. 95% of respondents Social media was believed to be the primary source of misinformation about elections. Blumenthal said these social media platforms “have the resources, access, knowledge and power to do more” when it comes to responding to threats to election officials and officials. increase.

Polite said social media platforms are an important source of “sending these communications” pending review by the task force. As such, the Task Force seeks assistance and support from many of these companies.

“These are the types of cases that cannot be done in isolation,” Polite said. “Also, we will very often need the assistance of these social media platforms to detect and report these communications in the future.”

Wyman told Blumenthal that one of CISA’s top priorities is to prevent bad actors from using online misinformation to “undermine people’s trust in our elections and, frankly, destroy America.” “It’s about making the American public aware of the fact that they are trying to turn people against each other and sow the seeds of discord.” But what social media companies can do on their own to counter these threats is: When asked if there is, Wyman said some election deniers’ responses point to a much bigger problem.

“I don’t think there is enough we can do,” said Mr. Wyman, who has helped administer and oversee elections at the state and local levels for three decades, but has so far been misplaced and maintained. He added that he had never seen such a situation. Anger directed at election officials and workers long after the election took place.

Threats to election officials and workers remain a top priority for CISA and DOJ ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, but Wyman said CISA has taken many steps to protect its voting system from outside intrusion. said there is. These efforts include sharing actionable information about threats and risks to election infrastructure with state and local officials, and “doubling down on our efforts to promote cyber hygiene practices.” Investing in cybersecurity is critical to the electoral ecosystem. ”

CISA’s continued efforts to protect state and local voting systems have earned praise from some of the committee’s senators.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-California), who served as California’s secretary of state from 2015 to 2021, said Golden State won a safe and secure election in 2020, which saw a record number of Californians cast. Kudos to CISA as a key partner to help achieve this. ballot paper.

“That’s what we really want to see this kind of cooperation between CISA and our state and local election partners continue,” Padilla added. Disinformation campaigns and intimidation are undermining confidence in US elections, officials say

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