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Big Tech Meets with US Intelligence Officials, Prepares for 'Emerging Threats' in 2020 Election

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Representatives from the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security met with big tech companies Wednesday at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to discuss cybersecurity ahead of the 2020 elections.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft were all present at what is assumed to be the first of many meetings on the topic, The New York Times reported.

“Improving election security and countering information operations are complex challenges that no organization can solve alone,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said in a statement.

“Today’s meeting builds on our continuing commitment to work with industry and government partners, as well as with civil society and security experts, to better understand emerging threats and prepare for future elections.”

The goal of the meeting was to talk about ways to keep disinformation campaigns, similar to the one Russia orchestrated in 2016, from spreading online. Representatives from the companies and the federal government also talked about how they could better share information and detect online threats.

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Facebook, in particular, has faced backlash after Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

“For Facebook, we’ve developed a comprehensive strategy to close previous vulnerabilities, while analyzing and getting ahead of new threats,” Gleicher told NPR.

“Our work focuses on continuing to build smarter tools, greater transparency, and stronger partnerships.”

Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, said the company “will continue to monitor our platforms while sharing relevant information with law enforcement and industry peers.”

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“It is crucial that industry, law enforcement and others collaborate to prevent any threats to the integrity of our election,” Salgado told The Times.

A senior intelligence official told reporters in June that Russia, China and Iran are all trying to influence public opinion going into the 2020 elections, Bloomberg reported at the time.

Although these discussions seem to be a step in the right direction, a research director at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center cautioned the public to watch for any possible big tech invasion of privacy.

“We don’t know where the lines are drawn internally,” Joan Donovan told The Times. “We don’t know whether the tech companies would consider your inbox or direct messages subject to sharing with the state.”

Nevertheless, cybersecurity should be extremely important going into the 2020 elections.

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NPR reported that hackers are trying to find a way to control voting machines remotely and identify any vulnerabilities they find that can be exploited.

One hacker, identified as Alex, said the ballot-marking machine used to help people with disabilities was using the same systems that “crash at your Walmart scanning your groceries. And we’re using those systems here to protect our democracy, which is a little bit unsettling.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith