election security Jen Easterly foreign disinformation deepfake

Ensuring Election Security and Integrity

As the United States approaches the 2024 presidential election, the integrity of our electoral process remains a critical issue. Despite persistent claims and efforts to undermine public confidence, there is no credible evidence of widespread election fraud in the 2020 election. However, the threat of foreign disinformation and misinformation continues to pose significant risks to the security and integrity of our elections.

The State of Election Security

In her recent testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Jen Easterly, Director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), emphasized the progress made in securing our nation’s election infrastructure. Since 2017, when election infrastructure was designated as critical, CISA and its partners have significantly enhanced the security and resilience of our electoral systems. “Election infrastructure has never been more secure,” Easterly stated, highlighting the robust measures taken to protect and support state and local election officials​​.

The 2020 Election: No Evidence of Fraud

Easterly reiterated that there is no evidence that malicious actors changed, deleted, or altered votes in the 2020 election. This has been validated through multiple court challenges and audits. “I have confidence in the integrity of our elections, and the American people should as well,” she affirmed​​. Despite these reassurances, unfounded claims of election fraud have led to significant challenges, including threats and harassment against election officials.

The Real Threat: Foreign Disinformation

While election infrastructure is more secure than ever, the threat environment is increasingly complex. Foreign adversaries, such as Russia, China, and Iran, have consistently aimed to undermine American confidence in election integrity through disinformation and misinformation campaigns. These efforts seek to sow discord and division within the United States, ultimately eroding trust in democratic institutions.

Disinformation Tactics and the Role of AI

One of the major concerns is the use of generative AI capabilities to amplify disinformation. These technologies enable adversaries to create convincing fake content at scale, making it more challenging to distinguish between real and false information.

We have already seen evidence of AI being used in this way. A story from The Journalist’s Resource shared, “In recent elections in Slovakia, for example, AI-generated audio recordings circulated on Facebook, impersonating a liberal candidate discussing plans to raise alcohol prices and rig the election.”

It has also been used recently here in the United States. In January of 2024, voters in New Hampshire received robocalls of a deepfake audio of President Joe Biden. One report explains, “In the message he apparently told them not to turn out, and instead to ‘save your vote for the November election.’ The caller ID number displayed was also faked to appear as if the automated message was sent from the personal number of Kathy Sullivan, a former state Democratic Party chair now running a pro-Biden super-PAC.”

Easterly highlighted that foreign malign influence operations remain a top priority for CISA, which continues to provide guidance on the tactics used by adversaries and maintains resources such as the “Rumor versus Reality” website to combat false narratives​​.

Protecting the 2024 Election

As we look ahead to the 2024 presidential election, it is crucial to build on the progress made and address the evolving threats. Here are some key steps to guard against foreign disinformation and ensure the integrity of our elections:

  1. Strengthen Cybersecurity Measures: Continue to enhance cybersecurity protocols for election infrastructure. This includes regular assessments, physical security evaluations, and training for election officials.
  2. Increase Public Awareness: Educate the public about the tactics used by foreign adversaries to spread disinformation. Promoting media literacy and critical thinking skills can help voters recognize and reject false information.
  3. Support Election Officials: Provide resources and support to state and local election officials who are on the frontlines of our democracy. This includes ensuring their safety and protecting them from threats and harassment.
  4. Leverage Technology: Use advanced technologies, such as AI and machine learning, to detect and counter disinformation campaigns. Collaboration with tech companies can also help in identifying and removing harmful content from social media platforms.
  5. Promote Transparency: Maintain transparency in the electoral process. Providing clear and accurate information about election procedures and results can help build public trust.

Defending Election Integrity

The integrity of our elections is a cornerstone of American democracy. While there are no credible claims of widespread election fraud, the threat of foreign disinformation remains significant. By strengthening cybersecurity measures, increasing public awareness, supporting election officials, leveraging technology, and promoting transparency, we can protect our electoral process from foreign interference and ensure that every vote counts.

For more information on election security and combating disinformation, visit the National Association of Secretaries of State’s Trusted Info 2024 initiative at Trusted Info.

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