With fourteen states going to the polls for the Democratic primary on Super Tuesday, government officials have expressed concern over election security and the potential for foreign interference at polling stations and in online misinformation campaigns.
Sarah Kreps, professor of government and international relations at Cornell University, studies artificial intelligence and misinformation. She says interference in elections can come from machine tampering, in addition to online disinformation campaigns.
“The 2016 election brought the threat of foreign election interference into sharp relief. American intelligence agencies did not find evidence of direct interference in the 2018 mid-term elections. They have warned, however, of foreign interference in Super Tuesday, when 14 states and 1,357 delegates are at stake, therefore pivotal in the process of nominating a Democrat to run in the 2020 Presidential election.
“The obvious way is through hacking the machines – the most vulnerable are paperless voting machines that have security flaws and no paper trail in the event of tampering or malfunction. But more insidious are online disinformation campaigns, for example, from foreign actors posing as Americans and posting inaccurate polling locations or times, with an eye toward affecting voting behavior.
“Elections are susceptible because much of the intelligence about interference is national-level or even corporate level (e.g., Twitter, Facebook), but elections themselves take place at the state and local levels so institutional coordination is both difficult but essential.”
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