Worries run high over digital threats to US election security, Latest World News - The New Paper

Worries run high over digital threats to US election security

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON It could be a manipulated video embarrassing a candidate. Or a computer voting system locked by ransomware.

As Americans prepare for the 2020 election, digital threats to election security are multiplying, especially after revelations of a misinformation campaign on Facebook and other social platforms, largely directed by Russian operatives, in 2016.

Cyber interference and disinformation operations surrounding elections "are part of a much larger, ongoing challenge to democracies everywhere", said a report from Stanford University's Cyber Policy Centre.

Mr Maurice Turner, an election security specialist with the Washington-based Centre for Democracy and Technology, said these threats could lead to "a negative impact on voter confidence" in 2020.

The newest threat may be "deepfake" video and audio manipulated with artificial intelligence that can put words in the mouths of candidates.

It might even show "unflattering or abusive images of women and minority aspirants in an effort to discredit them", said Mr Darrell West with the Brookings Institution's Centre for Technology Innovation, in an online report.

Deepfakes "can reinforce an idea for those who want to believe it and be a distraction in the news cycle" even if they are debunked, Mr Turner said.

The failure to take a hard stand against manipulation in 2016 has likely "emboldened Russia to try again in 2020", wrote Stanford professor and former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter security teams met this month with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other officials to discuss collaboration on election threats.- AFP