U.S. lawmakers and tech companies seek to improve election security

Securing Democracy Dispatch – 2 July 2018
Alliance for Security Democracy, German Marshall Fund of the U.S.

The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. The bill contains measures to enhance election security and prevent interference from foreign adversaries. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said “in the wake of foreign efforts to interfere with the 2016 U.S. elections … it is vital that we ensure our voting process remains fair and free from undue influence.” Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced the Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act, which aims to limit the online reach of social media bots during elections. American tech companies are also beginning to discuss methods to prevent foreign interference on social media ahead of the midterm elections. The New York Times reported that Facebook organized a meeting last month between FBI and DHS officials and representatives from major tech companies, including Google, Twitter, Apple, and Microsoft, in order to discuss preparations for this year’s midterm elections. However, the Times explained that, “in public and behind closed doors, intelligence officials have offered scant details about what Russia is doing, prompting frustration from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill.” Former acting director of the CIA John McLaughlin warned that “there is not the slightest evidence that Russia intends to back off” from interfering in our elections, and while there is still no proof that it was able to alter the results of the vote in 2016, the greatest danger is that it “affected voter attitudes on a range of issues, stoked partisan hostilities and may have reduced confidence in election integrity.” National Security Advisor John Bolton said that President Trump and President Putin would likely discuss the Kremlin’s alleged election meddling during their planned meeting July 16 in Helsinki, Finland. (Roll Call, Senate.gov, The New York Times, Ozy, The New York Post)