Signs Point to More Attempted Election Meddling

Recent agency efforts to shore up the cyber defenses on which the United States’ increasingly digital election platforms rely were well-founded, according to a piece in Quartz by Hanna Kozlowska, who writes that Facebook “blocked more than 100 Facebook and Instagram accounts because of concerns that they were linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian state-sponsored troll farm that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election” and other recent European elections.

Kozlowska notes that the takedowns were announced on November 5th, with few additional details provided with the list of blocked accounts seemingly overlapping with a list of accounts claimed by the IRA, suggesting that efforts, thus far, to conclusively respond to the cyber efforts have been “lacking.”

“Many of the dangers that were pointed out years ago have seemed to grow exponentially on Facebook, not unlike the other large social media ‘platforms,” writes Columbia University professor Jonathan Albright.

Albright also notes that platforms have seemingly failed to adjust to the shifting uses of their platforms, with many hate groups now preferring to use Facebook groups, with posts generally hidden from the public, and having no official moderators, a tactic Facebook has yet to properly address.

The New York TimesJonathon Morgan and Ryan Fox write that, in the lead-up to the midterms, the Russian government hasn’t “stopped trying to influence our elections. Indeed, they may be busier than ever,” based on recent data indicators.

Morgan and Fox, CEO and COO of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm, primarily argue that any claims by federal entities are often based on tracking efforts that are able to directly connect accounts to a nation of origin.  However, many presume there are many thousands of accounts existing that have remained undetected.

“The consensus among academic researchers and Russia experts in the intelligence community is that Russia does not take a timeout from information battles.” Morgan and Fox write. “We are heartened by the seriousness with which many social media platforms and government agencies are treating this situation. But while progress has been made since 2016, we must remain vigilant in the face of confirmed Russian efforts to undermine our democracy.”

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