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Hillicon Valley: Officials express confidence in voting security amid early technical glitches | Unidentified robocall told millions to ‘stay home’ ahead of Election Day: report | QAnon’s danger rises with divisive election

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SO FAR, SO GOOD?: Federal and state officials expressed confidence Tuesday in the security of the voting process, noting that while infrastructure in Georgia and Ohio was experiencing technical difficulties, the election process remained secure. 

“Let me be clear, our election infrastructure is resilient, we have no indication that a foreign actor has succeeded in compromising or affecting the actual votes cast in this election,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said at a press conference Tuesday. 

The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) serves as one of the federal leaders on election security and is working throughout the day Tuesday, and the days after the elections, to monitor for election threats. 

Election security has been a major area of concern in the months leading up to Election Day, and particularly following Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s announcement last month that Iran and Russia had gained access to U.S. voter data and were using it to send threatening emails to voters in at least three states. 

CISA Director Christopher Krebs also told reporters Tuesday that federal officials “have addressed those threats” but urged vigilance as voters head to the polls and as the vote count begins. 

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RAMPANT ROBOCALLS: An unidentified robocall told millions of Americans to “stay home” ahead of Election Day, The Washington Post reports. 

The Post reported Tuesday that over the past several weeks, about 10 million robocalls from fake phone numbers were made telling people to “stay safe and stay home.” The calls featured a female voice saying the message is a “test call” before telling people to stay inside. 

Alex Quilici, chief executive officer of spam-blocking company YouMail, told the newspaper that the calls did not directly mention the 2020 elections but still aim to sow confusion and show vulnerabilities in the phone system that could be exploited.

If you wanted to cause havoc in America for the elections, one way to do it is clearly robocalling,” Quilici said. “This whole thing is exposing [that] it can be very difficult to react quickly to a large calling volume campaign.”

An investigation by YouMail found that the calls may be of foreign origin and have reached 280 of the 317 area codes in the country. They began in the summer and became more aggressive in October. 

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QANON THREAT RISES: One of the most divisive presidential elections in U.S. history is likely to have a huge impact on QAnon, the sprawling conspiracy theory that has rapidly grown in the Trump era and is increasingly seen as a serious threat.

The theory is centered around the belief that Trump is working to expose and prosecute a cabal of elites in media, government and Hollywood running child sex-trafficking rings, but has grown to include more broad anti-institutional beliefs that have helped it spread amid backlash to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear exactly what might happen with QAnon regardless of who wins the presidential election, though experts who spoke with The Hill warned of a risk of civil unrest or violence tied to QAnon in the immediate aftermath of a win by Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

“I think there is going to be a very high chance of QAnon activism in the real world and it will probably be the most dangerous point in QAnon’s history,” Alex Newhouse, digital research lead at the Center on Terrorism, Extremism, and Counterterrorism at the Middlebury Institute, said. “QAnon is inherently adversarial … the entire idea of the movement is that the true believers are soldiers in a war against the forces of evil.”

QAnon’s adherents have been tied to a limited number of violent actions to date, although they are considered by many — including the FBI — to be a significant domestic threat.

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TWITTER CRACKS DOWN ON ELECTION DAY MISINFORMATION: Twitter applied labels to and restricted the spread of posts from some right-wing accounts in Pennsylvania making unfounded claims of election fraud on Tuesday.

Mike Roman, the Trump campaign’s national Election Day operations director, claimed in several tweets that in Philadelphia, Republican poll watchers were being turned away from voting locations, that Democrats were handing out literature to Americans in line and that ballot boxes were being stuffed.

Four of his posts were marked with labels and one was restricted from being retweeted or liked under Twitter’s civic integrity policy, a spokesperson for the platform confirmed to The Hill.

The Philadelphia Republican Party’s account had multiple posts alleging without evidence that voters were being allowed to vote twice and that parents and children were voting for each other in Allegheny County appended with information labels.

One particular post that claimed poll workers were instructing voters to select Democrats and that broken machines were causing three-hour waits was restricted from being shared and had an interstitial label placed on it noting that “some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”

Stephen Moore, an economist and adviser to President Trump, claimed in a tweet that election officials were barring individuals from observing absentee ballot counting. That post was slapped with a label with information about the safety of mail-in voting.

Allegheny County directly disputed that post.

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NY AG PROBES ROBOCALLS: New York Attorney General Letitia James is launching an investigation into allegations that robocalls provided misleading voting information and urged voters to stay home on Election Day. 

James, who noted that her office issued subpoenas earlier this week as they seek to probe the source behind these spam calls, warned Tuesday that those who are trying to impact an individual’s right to vote “will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.” 

“Attempts to hinder voters from exercising their right to cast their ballots are disheartening, disturbing, and wrong. What’s more is that it is illegal, and it will not be tolerated,” James said in a statement.

Her remarks come as an estimated 10 million robocalls have inundated voters as they head to the polls. Some of the robocall messages were designed to encourage voters to stay home and others were designed to mislead voters, according to The Washington Post.  

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EXPECTED DELAYS IN NORTH CAROLINA: Election results will be delayed almost an hour in the Tar Heel State after the North Carolina State Board of Elections (NCSBE) voted Tuesday to extend hours at four polling locations due to early delays from technical issues. 

The NCSBE, which oversees more than 2,600 polling sites in the state, moved to extend voting at four locations in three counties by various amounts of time. In North Carolina, polling sites remain open until 7:30 p.m. EST, but with the extensions, the earliest any election results could be released is 8:15 p.m. EST. 

The Plainview Fire Station polling site in Sampson County saw the longest voting time extension, with the NCSBE giving the site 45 extra minutes, while a second site in the county was given 24 extra minutes. 

The Bluford Elementary School polling site in Greensboro will remain open 34 extra minutes, and the polling site at the First Missionary Baptist Church in Concord in Cabarrus County will remain open an extra 17 minutes. 

The Cabarrus County government tweeted Tuesday that the delay in voting at the First Missionary Baptist Church was “due to an issue with the onsite printer.”

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FACEBOOK, TWITTER LABEL TRUMP’S ELECTION EVE POST: Twitter and Facebook placed warning labels on President Trump’s election eve social media posts late Monday, the latest effort by the president to sow doubt on mail-in ballots while in this case criticizing a Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to Pennsylvania’s vote-counting rules. 

Twitter limited the view of the tweet, issuing a warning that “some or all of the content” in the message “is disputed and might be misleading.” The outlet allowed users to view the message only after clicking on the warning. 

Facebook issued a similar warning on Trump’s post on its platform, with a link to get information about Election Day. 

A Twitter spokesperson said the company decided to place the warning for “making a potentially misleading claim about an election,” in line with the company’s vivid integrity policy. 

“We will significantly restrict engagements on this Tweet,” the spokesperson added. 

Facebook declined to comment in response to the decision to label the president’s post. The label is in line with the type of label the company pledged in September to put on any post that “seeks to delegitimize the outcome of the election or discuss the legitimacy of voting methods,” including by “claiming that lawful methods of voting will lead to fraud.” 

Read more here


Lighter click: Cake 4 today

An op-ed to chew on: A culture of responsibility: The promise of a safer digital world


The 2020 election turned fandom into activism (The Verge / Makena Kelly)

Meet the researchers and activists fighting misinformation Tuesday (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum)

Amazon’s Surveillance Drones Violate FCC Rules. It’s Time To Enforce Them (Motherboard / Albert Fox Cahn and Evan Greer)

YouTube Cut Down Misinformation. Then It Boosted Fox News. (New York Times / Jack Nicas)

TikTok Is Becoming a Vector of Election Violence Rumors (Rolling Stone / EJ Dickinson)

Tags Chad Wolf Donald Trump Joe Biden John Ratcliffe Stephen Moore

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