Facebook’s former security chief warned that attacks on the American electoral system are alive and well ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, urging the country to learn from its mistakes and prepare itself to handle any threats connected to the 2020 elections.
In a blog post titled, “It’s Too Late to Protect the 2018 Elections. But Here’s How the U.S. Can Prepare for 2020,” published Wednesday, Alex Stamos seized on the news that the social media giant had removed 652 pages, groups and accounts linked to Russia and Iran this week as well as the revelation that Microsoft had pulled websites that were connected to new Russian hacking attempts on U.S. political groups.
“The revelations are evidence that Russia has not been deterred and that Iran is following in its footsteps,” Stamos wrote. “This underlines a sobering reality: America’s adversaries believe that it is still both safe and effective to attack U.S. democracy using American technologies and the freedoms we cherish.”
He lamented that the U.S. hasn’t taken the issue of information warfare seriously enough, causing countries like Iran to begin adopting Russia’s tactics. He also acknowledged his role in causing the misinformation to spread, admitting that the company failed to adequately prepare for the onslaught.
And to forestall similar issues in 2020, he recommended that Congress set legal standards around misinformation and setting guidelines for voter databases.
“Americans need to collectively decide how finely political influence campaigns should be allowed to divvy up the electorate, even when those campaigns are domestically run and otherwise completely legal,” he wrote.
The U.S. government should also create an independent cybersecurity agency, he counseled, modeled off of countries like France and Germany. And each state should take responsibility, building election security teams to oversee local processes.
Facebook has been in damage control mode ever since it acknowledged that Russia used its platform to try and influence the 2016 presidential election. It announced the removal of more than 500 million fake pages and accounts in the first quarter of 2018, part of a new push to increase transparency.