Nov 8, 2022 - Technology

Cybersecurity officials prepare for post-Election Day disinformation

Illustration of an open lock on a voting ballot.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Threats to 2022 election security will extend beyond today's vote as officials prepare for an onslaught of disinformation targeting the credibility of ballot counts and potential recounts throughout the week.

Why it matters: Election deniers are likely to spread lies about the security of ballot counts, voting machines and absentee voting in the days it will take officials to certify the results of several close races.

Details: The challenges to election results are expected to come in a variety of forms this week.

  • Voting rights groups participating in the Election Protection coalition told reporters last week they're standing up hotlines and sending in on-the-ground help at voting centers to debunk lies about how votes are cast to preempt false narratives targeting the voting process.
  • Disinformation about the security of voting equipment is already spreading, Pam Smith, president of Verified Voting, told reporters. And a report from cybersecurity firm Recorded Future released Monday anticipates an uptick in voting-machine-related disinformation in the days after Election Day.
  • Foreign actors could continue ongoing election-related disinformation campaigns as the votes are counted to further spur distrust in official results.

The big picture: Candidates and elected officials have come to anticipate challenges to election results in recent years. Officials have issued a series of warnings and attempted to "pre-bunk" the lies in the last few weeks.

Reality check: "It is overwhelmingly safe for American voters to vote — whether you voted in advance, through early or absentee voting, or vote tomorrow," said Chris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in the Trump administration, during a Washington Post event Monday.

  • "Do not let these people deter you from getting out there and voting," he added.
  • A senior CISA official told reporters earlier today that the agency also continues to see "no specific or credible threat to disrupt election infrastructure."

Between the lines: Failing to rein in election lies before they spread can have deadly consequences — as seen during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

  • Hundreds of election deniers are on the ballot today, creating an opportunity for newly elected government officials to further peddle these lies this week.

Yes, but: The ability to limit the spread of election lies also sits with social media platforms that operate using their own rules for moderating disinformation.

  • While Facebook and YouTube continue to operate their election moderation teams as usual, recent upheaval in Twitter's ownership could make it ripe for election disinformation this week.

Be smart: State and local election officials are the best source of information on election administration and results as officials count ballots.

  • CISA will also be debunking election lies on its Rumor Control site.
  • And members of the Election Protection coalition are operating a series of hotlines to help answer questions about the voting process.

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