Federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies have enlisted Big Tech executives to help fight influence operations aimed at the election and to help prepare for the upcoming Democratic and Republican National Conventions that will be held largely online.
The group war-gaming different potential attacks ahead of the election includes Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Pinterest, Reddit, Verizon, and the Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees Wikipedia.
The Big Tech executives met with representatives of the FBI, Department of Justice, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on Wednesday. Afterward, the Big Tech executives said that their companies are meeting regularly with the federal government agencies responsible for ensuring election security.
“We held the latest in a series of meetings with government partners today where we each provided updates on what we’re seeing on our respective platforms and what we expect to see in the coming months,” the Big Tech companies said in a joint statement. “Specifically, we discussed preparations for the upcoming conventions and scenario planning related to election results. We will continue to stay vigilant on these issues and meet regularly ahead of the November election.”
The federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies said the goal of their interaction with the social media and technology companies was to increase resilience in support of election security, share information, and strengthen the government’s relationship with the tech sector.
“Whether it’s the federal government, election officials, social media companies or the American public, everyone has a role to play,” the federal government agencies said in a statement. “Transparency on risks is critical to countering the threat and we will continue to work with our state, local partners and the private sector in this collective mission to protect 2020.”
While participants in the meeting have kept specific details on the discussions under wraps, Facebook provided some clues about ongoing concerns in the roll-out of its new voting information center. Facebook formally launched the center on Wednesday with goals of registering 4 million voters, recruiting poll workers, and curating news about elections.
Facebook vice president of product and social impact Naomi Gleit said upon meeting with election officials the company has determined that misinformation around election results on its platform is becoming an “emerging threat.”
“In previous years, U.S. election preliminary results were often reported soon after polls closed,” Ms. Gleit wrote on Facebook’s blog. “A prolonged ballot process has the potential to be exploited in order to sow distrust in the election outcome. One way we plan to fight this is by using the Voting Information Center and the U.S. Elections digest in Facebook News to make sure people have easy access to the latest, authoritative information and news on and after Election Night.”
Ms. Gleit wrote that Facebook would have more details on its plans in the near-term and she said Facebook has developed a “Facts About Voting” feature on its platform in partnership with the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank founded by former Democratic and Republican senators.
Concerns that delayed election results could cause chaos has fast become a priority for social media companies looking to combat misinformation and disinformation on their platforms. Anticipated increases in mail-in voting and expected coronavirus-related precautions for in-person voting and vote-counting has made it unlikely that election results will necessarily be known on Election Day. Election officials, the federal government, and social media companies are concerned that adversaries will look to inflame political tensions and sow distrust in the confidence of the United States’ election infrastructure.
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