WASHINGTON - The final push is on to get voters to the polls on Election Day and election security is a big concern. In fact, experts say there is a new effort on social media to use those security concerns to discourage people from voting.
Election security experts say there is an active disinformation campaign online, by bot networks, to make people think the midterm elections are rigged. But they say the best way to make sure that does not happen is to get out and vote.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are a great tool when it comes to encouraging people to vote. Yet social media sites are still teeming with disinformation and misleading campaign ads.
According to Facebook, more than $350 million has been spent on more than two million midterm campaign ads since May.
Twitter says it has deleted thousands of accounts and Facebook say it's working to take down bad information.
However, Facebook says it was contacted by federal law enforcement on Sunday about possible election meddling from foreign entities.
"Our very early-stage investigation has so far identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior," Facebook said. "We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail. Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English — some were focused on celebrities, others political debate."
Harold Smith, the CEO and co-founder of Monkton, says thd disinformation is concerning and social media platforms need to be doing more to combat the problem.
“I don't think they are doing a good enough job going after bots that just retweet negative stories, that push negative stories, that push these conclusions that elections are rigged or somehow slated against one party or the other,” he said. “The most important thing anybody can actually do is go out there and vote.”
That is exactly what Mikey Dickerson is trying to do with his new app – Vote With Me. Campaigns have long used voting records to encourage people to vote, but this app puts all that information in the palm of your hand.
Dickerson says the app lets people see the voting records for every contact in their phone and then nag them to vote.
“Peer pressure, effectively," said Dickerson. “Social norm, if you will. Social norms are why people do most of the things they do – mow the lawn, put on pants in the morning, all kinds of things.”
While some might consider the app invasive, Dickerson says all the information comes from public records and is neither sold or stored by the app.
“It’s not really new, but we are making it easier to access," he said. “So what I would say to anybody who is anxious about what it says about them, really the only thing you should worry about is if your registration is right and most states have a way to check that with your secretary of state.”
Election officials say the polls will be busy in the morning and after work. To avoid the crowds, they suggest going between 10:30 a.m. and noon or between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a joint statement that said in part:
"Our agencies have been working in unprecedented ways to combat influence efforts and to support state and local officials in securing our elections, including efforts to harden election infrastructure against interference. Our goal is clear: ensure every vote is counted and counted correctly. At this time we have no indication of compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would prevent voting, change vote counts, or disrupt the ability to tally votes.
"But Americans should be aware that foreign actors—and Russia in particular—continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord. They can do this by spreading false information about political processes and candidates, lying about their own interference activities, disseminating propaganda on social media, and through other tactics. The American public can mitigate these efforts by remaining informed, reporting suspicious activity, and being vigilant consumers of information."