Washington in Super Tuesday Fake News Warning

Eight US government departments and agencies have issued a statement warning voters in today’s Super Tuesday primaries to be on their guard for foreign-led misinformation on social media.

Voters in 14 states will go to the polls today to choose who they want to see fight the next Presidential election later this year. As such, it represents a major opportunity for Russian or other state-led efforts to undermine specific candidates, or more generally, faith in the democratic process.

The government notice warned foreign governments that firm reprisals would come their way if any such activity was detected.

“We continue to work with all 50 states, US territories, local officials, political parties and private sector partners to keep elections free from foreign interference,” it said.

“We remain alert and ready to respond to any efforts to disrupt the 2020 elections. We continue to make it clear to foreign actors that any effort to undermine our democratic processes will be met with sharp consequences.”

The threat to US elections is three-fold: hackers have already been discovered probing voting infrastructure, and could use unauthorized access to disrupt the e-voting systems themselves. Or they could go down the Guccifer 2.0 route and try to hack and release sensitive internal documents from candidates’ teams, in order to smear them.

Fake social media accounts spreading misinformation on candidates are a third option.

On the latter, the government warned voters to “remain aware that foreign actors continue to try to influence public sentiment and shape voter perceptions.

“They spread false information and propaganda about political processes and candidates on social media in hopes to cause confusion and create doubt in our system,” it said.

However, in reality, there’s not much that Washington could do in the event of a serious incident. In the past, Vladimir Putin has blamed activity on “patriotic hackers,” thus giving the Kremlin plausible deniability.

The statement was issued by: secretary of state Mike Pompeo; attorney general, William Barr; defense secretary, Mark Esper; acting secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf; acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell; FBI director, Christopher Wray; US Cyber Command commander and NSA director Paul Nakasone and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director, Christopher Krebs.

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