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W.Va.’s new public education effort addresses foreign and Russian interference in American elections via social media

From the Office of the Secretary of State

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The WV Secretary of State’s office is releasing a new video, as well as audience-specific PowerPoint presentations, to educate citizens on foreign interference in U.S. elections.

The public education video produced by the WV Secretary of State’s office focuses on election cybersecurity — specifically foreign and Russian interference in the 2016 and 2018 American elections. The two-minute version of the video can be found on YouTube.com.

“Educating our citizens on how to recognize disinformation and misinformation is a top priority,” Secretary Warner said. “Foreign entities know the best way to break down trust between citizens and citizens and their government is through division. We can’t allow that to happen.”

Because of West Virginia’s leading efforts in the election cybersecurity arena, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) has invited WV Secretary of State Mac Warner to showcase the video and slide presentation at the NASS 2019 Summer Conference this weekend in Santa Fe, NM. Warner will present to state and local elections officials from all over the United States.

“We have entered a new age – the age of Big Data – and our culture is being driven by algorithms, artificial intelligence, bots, blockchain, machine learning, micro-targeting and social media,” Warner said. “Unfortunately, Russia and other bad actors have weaponized these tools, and like judo experts, are using these against us. They know elections are the heart of democracy, so elections are the center of gravity for their disinformation operations.”

Warner encourages social, civic and military organizations to show a six-minute version of the video as a program for their memberships. The video highlights the effort made by foreign entities to circulate misinformation via social media. The full-length video can be found on YouTube.com.

In addition to the video, Warner and his Elections Division team have developed PowerPoint presentations that are audience and age specific. Working with WV Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine, Warner developed one presentation for high school civics, government and history teachers. (Russia’s Campaign to Influence U.S. Elections.pdf) Teachers may use the video and PowerPoint combination to educate students on the impact social media has on our elections.

West Virginia has become a leader in election cybersecurity due to foreign threats in the 2016 election. West Virginia was the first state in the nation to hire a National Guard asset to monitor election security. The Mountain State was also the first to offer a mobile voting option for military and overseas voters. West Virginia also conducted the first statewide county clerk training conference using Harvard’s Belfer Center Election Security Playbook, and used Congress-approved HAVA funds to upgrade election equipment and security.

Such efforts brought West Virginia to the attention of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Collaborating with DHS, West Virginia has assembled this new video and accompanying slide presentation to educate U.S. citizens on foreign interference, mainly using social media as the vector of attack.

A reservoir of additional slides are available for a more in-depth PowerPoint presentation, and can be tailored to the audience. Local election officials, legislators and political party leaders are encouraged to build their own slide presentation to educate the general public on attempts to influence American elections through social media. The extended version presentation can be found on the WV Secretary of State’s website at: Russia’s Campaign to Influence U.S. Elections.

Through both the video and PowerPoint, Secretary Warner emphasized that not one vote was changed in the 2016 and 2018 elections. The ultimate goal of foreign election meddling was to create distrust and division among the American people by encouraging unsuspecting citizens to share disinformation on social media.

Secretary Warner will be attending the NASS national conference starting on June 30th. He will be available for interviews before and after his presentation.

Read more: https://sos.wv.gov/news/Pages/06-26-2019-A.aspx

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