Facebook funds Harvard group trying to fight election hacking

Facebook funds Harvard group trying to fight election hacking
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Facebook said on Wednesday that it will give funding to a nonprofit at Harvard that is trying to curb cyberattacks aimed political groups and election systems.

The social media giant’s money will go to Defending Digital Democracy, a group led by former campaign chairs for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE and Mitt Romney, based at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

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Though Facebook is providing the initial funding for the center, it said that it hopes other participants will help the organization transition into a group with several members who share information and analysis in “critical areas of the democratic process.”

At Black Hat, an IT security conference, Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said the project was born out of the company realizing that no one was taking responsibility for issues of election hacking.

“A huge amount of harm falls outside what we considered to be our problem,” Stamos said. “The real problems is that those issues is generally not anybody else’s problem either.”

The project is set be managed by Eric Rosenbach, former assistant secretary of defense and current co-director of the Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Facebook's efforts in the space come after CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially downplayed the platform being used as a mechanism to try to influence the election. 

"To think [Facebook] influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea," Zuckerberg said last November after the election.

Stamos also said during his keynote that the company would bring in local and state election officials to the Facebook D.C. office to discuss election security and areas the two can work together on.

In his keynote, Facebook’s chief security officer attributed some of the problems the industry is facing in security to homogeneity in technology.

“We do not have the diversity of the people we’re trying to protect,” Stamos said. “We have to see what kinds of solutions are helpful in a specific cultural situation.”

Stamos clarified that he was talking about a diversity of people from educational backgrounds and experiences in addition to race, heritage and socioeconomic background.

“Building a diverse team with a diverse background is key because you never know what kind of problem you’re going to get into,” Stamos said.