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Georgia: The black-and-white cyber security debate behind that November surprise | The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Like any subset of society, the world of technology has its own culture, its own precepts of what separates good behavior from bad. Some people find certain aspects of that culture baffling – specifically, the topic of cyber security. And many of those people can be found in and around the state Capitol. Over the weekend, our AJC colleague Alan Judd posted a catch-up piece on one of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s last actions in that office – his Nov. 3 decision to announce that he had placed the Democratic Party of Georgia under investigation for an alleged attempt to hack the state’s voter registration database. Never mind that Kemp was the GOP nominee for governor, and Election Day was 72 hours away.  Read More

National: Russian 2016 Influence Operation Targeted African-Americans on Social Media | The New York Times

The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of activity on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its posts on Facebook, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee. The report adds new details to the portrait that has emerged over the last two years of the energy and imagination of the Russian effort to sway American opinion and divide the country, which the authors said continues to this day. “Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” says the report, produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Tex., along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. One continuing Russian campaign, for instance, seeks to influence opinion on Syria by promoting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a Russian ally in the brutal conflict there. Read More

National: Voter Suppression and Racial Targeting: In Facebook’s and Twitter’s Words | The New York Times

A report submitted to a Senate committee about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election says that social media companies made misleading or evasive claims about whether the efforts tried to discourage voting or targeted African-Americans on their platforms. The report, which is based largely on data provided to Congress by companies such as Facebook and Twitter, was produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company, along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research. It found the Russian campaign focused on influencing African-Americans and also tried to suppress voting. Read More

National: Targeting Black Americans, Russia’s IRA Exploited Racial Wounds | WIRED

Two days before the 2016 presidential election, @woke_blacks posted an anti-voting polemic to its Instagram account. “The excuse that a lost Black vote for Hillary is a Trump win is bs. Should you decide to sit-out the election, well done for the boycott,” the caption read. “I remind us all one more time, anyone who wins can literally change less about the state of Black people, we are on our own, esp. after Obama. Wise up my people!” Another user, @afrokingdom_, shared a comparable sentiment: “Black people are smart enough to understand that Hillary doesn’t deserve our votes! DON’T VOTE!” According to a new report commissioned for the Senate Intelligence Committee by cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, those accounts, along with dozens more, were part of an extensive and complex campaign to suppress the black American vote by the Russian firm Internet Research Agency. Read More

National: U.S. tech companies impeded Senate probe of Russian meddling, report says | UPI

Facebook, Twitter and Google impeded in the Senate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a new report said Monday.

The report was compiled by Britain’s University of Oxford and analyzed by the firm New Knowledge. It said the tech companies submitted incomplete data and misled lawmakers about the actions of Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm.

The Computational Propaganda Research Project done by the University of Oxford said the Russian agency used social media to polarize the United States from 2012 to 2018 — including campaigns to encourage African-American voters to boycott elections and Hispanic voters to distrust U.S. institutions. The propaganda, it said, encouraged extreme right-wing voters to be confrontational. The trolls also sent sensationalist, conspiratorial and other forms of junk political news and misinformation to voters across the political spectrum to get spark outrage and division, the report said.

“Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) launched an extended attack on the United States by using computational propaganda to misinform and polarize U.S. voters,” the report states. “In this analysis, we investigate how the IRA exploited the tools and platforms of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to impact U.S. users.”

Full Article: U.S. tech companies impeded Senate probe of Russian meddling, report says – UPI.com.

National: Literacy Tests Are Gone, But Voter Suppression Isn’t | HuffPost

It used to be that literacy tests and poll taxes kept black voters from the ballot box. It was deliberate disenfranchisement put in place to block African-Americans after they legally gained the right to vote. But in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law one of the most powerful pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. The law, called the Voting Rights Act, equipped the federal government with a bazooka it could aim at racist barriers standing in the way of minority voters. The Voting Rights Act not only wiped out many of those restrictions, but it was a profound acknowledgement that change could only happen if all Americans could choose who governed them. In Episode 1 of “Shut Out” we take a 1960s literacy test, designed to keep black people from voting, and learn more about how America made it hard, and continues to make it hard, for black voters to get to the polls. Read More

Editorials: Democratic House will address most important civil rights issue in half century | Lawrence Lessig/USA Today

In its first act next January, the new House is scheduled to take up the most important civil rights bill in half a century. The bill signals a profoundly comprehensive understanding of the flaws that have evolved within our democracy. That it is scheduled first screams a recognition that these flaws must be fixed first, if we’re to have a Congress that is free to do the other critically important work that Congress must do. But that the bill is all but invisible to anyone outside the beltway signals the most important gap left in this most important fight to make representative democracy in America possible — if not again, then finally. The bill  —  denominated H.R. 1  —  is a radically comprehensive and practical fix to all but one of the critical failures of our evolved system of representative democracy. Crafted primarily by Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill recognizes that there are multiple flaws within our democracy and that these flaws must be addressed together. Read More

Editorials: Yes, Russian Trolls Helped Elect Trump | Michelle Goldberg/The New York Times

This year, researchers at Ohio State University tried to measure the impact that fake news had on the 2016 election. They based their analysis on a postelection survey in which they’d asked voters 281 questions, three of which were intended to determine their exposure to online disinformation. Respondents were asked to rate the accuracy of statements claiming that Hillary Clinton was suffering from a serious illness, that she’d approved weapons sales to the Islamic State as secretary of state, and that Donald Trump had been endorsed by Pope Francis. “Belief in these fake news stories is very strongly linked to defection from the Democratic ticket by 2012 Obama voters,” wrote the researchers, Richard Gunther, Paul A. Beck and Erik C. Nisbet. Even after controlling for variables like ideology, education, party identification and dislike of Clinton, they found that believing a fake news story made people who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012 significantly less likely to vote for Clinton in 2016. The study’s authors don’t claim a clear causal link between propaganda and voting; it’s possible that people who rejected Clinton were more open to misinformation about her. It’s hard to believe, however, that at least some of them weren’t affected by a social media ecosystem saturated with deliberate lies. Read More

Alaska: Lieutenant Governor wants audit of election system | Alton Telegraph

Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said Monday that he wants an audit of Alaska’s election system following irregularities in the last two primaries. Meyer, a Republican, said the more he’s learning about the Division of Elections, the more he thinks it has done a “pretty good job.” He noted the division found irregularities in a state House primary this year, which the division previously said resulted in 26 suspect ballots being sent to the Department of Law for further review. In that race, the division said it had received seven absentee ballot applications for people that records indicated were dead. The division said it did not send ballots to those requestors. But Meyer said those irregularities and actions by some election workers in a 2016 House primary raised concerns. Questions arose in 2016 around election worker training in certain rural precincts. Read More

Georgia: State has not followed good election security practices, cyber expert says | StateScoop

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s Nov. 3 accusation that Democrats attempted to hack the state’s voter registration database three days before a gubernatorial election he would go on to win was blasted at the time by cybersecurity experts, who said Kemp offered little evidence to support his claim. Six weeks later, a report confirming that Kemp made his accusation based on a single piece of flimsy evidence, and that no law-enforcement investigations ever took place, strongly suggests Georgia has ignored good election security practices, an expert in the field told StateScoop. Eric Hodge, the director of election security services for the security firm CyberScout, responded to a Dec. 14 report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that found that Kemp’s claim that Democrats tried to hack the state voter file was based on a lone email to a Democratic volunteer from a software developer who said he found vulnerabilities in the database. In his capacity as secretary of state, Kemp, who resigned Nov. 8, was Georgia’s top elections official, leading to criticisms about whether he should oversee an election for governor in which he was also the Republican candidate. Read More