What Went Right in the 2020 Election

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After the 2020 election in the United States, a lot went wrong. But here’s one thing that proved to be true in the meantime: a risk that worries everyone – foreign election interference – mostly a failure.

This showed that when government officials and technology companies focus on a problem, they coordinate effectively and learn from their past mistakes.

But, he False story The election was stolen, also pointing to the extent of those efforts, culminating in a mob attack on the US Capitol. Russians or Chinese did not represent our election. We did it ourselves.

Today, I want to explore the glass half-full view. Considering foreign elections, the success of the mass threat was a success that should not be overlooked.

What went wrong last time

Remind me first of what happened around the 2016 election. Russian Hackers Received documents from Democratic national committee And Tried to surround With the state election infrastructure. Digital publicist Information has been banned on the Russian government-backed Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and elsewhere, which seek to incite confidence or social divisions in people’s voting.

Powerful American institutions – particularly local, state, and federal government officials as well as large Internet companies – were slow to deal with the problem or were Initially rejected it. Hacking and trolling effect Was not clear, But the concern was that foreign governments would regularly try to disrupt US elections and that Americans’ lack of trust in our system and with each other would contribute.

What happened in 2020

Some foreign governments, including Russia And Iran tried to disrupt our elections again, but it mostly did not work. The same American institutions and digital defenses that failed four years ago are substantially stronger at this time.

“The progress made between 2016 and 2020 was remarkable,” said Camille FrançoisThe Chief Innovation Officer at Graphica, a firm that analyzes the manipulation of social networks.

What has changed in government and technology

A major shift after 2016 was that federal government officials and state and local officials who run the elections overcame initial distrust to cooperate more effectively on the dangers of voting. Matt masterson, Who was recently a senior adviser on election security for the Department of Homeland Security, said that coordination was the biggest change that helped reduce digital security in election management systems.

“It’s as good as the federal government has worked on any issue in my experience,” Masterson said.

He credited the efforts in the states, notably Georgia, which created Ballot paper trails That can be audited quickly and provided More visibility in counting To help increase the confidence of the people in the election process.

The tech companies, François said, shifted to accept their blind spots. For the first time, online powers, including Facebook, wrote specifically policies dealing with foreign government arbitration and charged people with curbing it. They too Made it difficult for foreign trolls to use some of the tactics of 2016, Such as purchasing online advertisements to broadcast widespread messages.

Social media companies also started forming Announce publicly When they got campaigns by foreign governments that were used to confuse people online. François said researchers and journalists got better help Assess the techniques of foreign campaigners – And shared knowledge helped Internet companies stop trolling campaigns before making a big impact.

Cooperation between the government and technology companies has also improved. Were there Regular meetings Between major Internet companies for information sharing and federal officials responsible for election security. And Internet companies started telling the public when the US government told them about foreign interference on their websites.

Both François and Masterson said there was an “aha” moment of Iran’s attempt to intimidate voters during the fall. National security officer said Iran then obtained voter-registration data of some Americans, most of which were publicly available, to send. Misleading message Which puts voters at risk.

As they were prepared for such threats, officials were able to intimidate voters in many states, identify the source of the messaging messages, notify election officials around the country and tell voters whether Happening – in about a day.

“It couldn’t happen in 2016, and it was unlikely to happen in 2018,” Masterson said. “That’s what we were all trained for.”

What will happen next

While Internet companies and the US government caught the kind of intervention they encountered in 2016, they Failed to face even the toughest Yet the challenge of a campaign led by the president to doubt the election process No strong evidence. And Foreign cyber attack And Online promotion The effort has certainly not stopped.

But it could have been much worse. A lot went right in the election as powerful institutions took the risk of foreign hacking and trolling seriously and gave rise to the challenge. It is a hopeful lesson for future elections, epidemics and other crises.



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Duck cart Snake through an opening in half-frozen water.


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