Election security concerns remain on nation’s mind in wake of 2016 Russian interference

Buckley Report
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In the middle of all the talk about who we want to elect – or re-elect – as president in 2020 is that constant conversation about whether the election truly reflects our national consensus or did foreign nations’ meddling affect the outcome?

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, led by North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, has been looking into that for the last few years and says, yes, Russia certainly did look to affect the 2016 presidential election, but the ranking Democrat on the committee says that shouldn’t be a surprise.

“This didn’t just happen in American – it’s happened in virtually every democracy that a country like Russia basically wants to sow chaos, and they have been fairly effective at that,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the committee.

That has put some doubt in the minds of many of us, not just about 2016, but going forward.

“We’re all wondering, ‘Is the next election really going to be secure? Are we doing enough?’” said Elon University communications professor Amanda Sturgill. “And we do these things, it undermines the trust in our own government.”

In her study of communications and their effects, Sturgill says our open communication – even on platforms like Facebook, Instagram and other social media – are a net positive and distinctly American.

“And, in some ways, that’s advantageous to the way we tend to think communication should be, right?” Sturgill said. But, she warns, “When it comes to new technology, the law tends to lag the technology by a good bit, and that continues to be a problem. It’s become a more urgent problem lately.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee did set up a system where the government and the various social media companies will regularly talk to each other about what they’re seeing in terms of possible misinformation or meddling by foreign governments, which staffers on the committee say is a good thing. But that won’t eradicate the issue.

“This is not a case where one particular government action can fix everything,” said Sen. Warner. “We have to have an ongoing partnership with the private sector. The platform companies – the social media companies – have gotten better but we’ve not put any real rules of the road in place.”

But those rules will only apply to the social media companies.

In the meantime, “I think the best answer is media literacy,” Sturgill said about what we can all do to be vigilant about making sure what we read and hear is legitimate.

“The moral of the story is that we need to not just get our information from social media. We need to talk to one another,” Sturgill said.

See more on this subject in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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