Officials step up election security efforts while Facebook aims to stop misinformation

- The countdown is on to the midterm elections. From a virtual bait and switch to concerns about the ballots, there are efforts underway to get the word out to vote and preventing fraud.

While the push to get out to vote continues with Election Day less than three weeks away, ELLE Magazine is apologizing for a tweet that said Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were splitting up. Instead, the link attached to the tweet actually takes you to a website to register to vote.

While the intention may have been good, there are also concerns about misinformation and cybersecurity.

Facebook’s election “war room” is up and running as the social media giant has been under intense scrutiny from federal officials after it emerged that Russian government-linked operatives used it to target Americans during the 2016 presidential election.

The company says it has hired thousands of new moderators, invested in artificial intelligence and brought in new rules for political advertising – all in an effort to tackle the misinformation crisis.

The war room is being used to protect its Instagram and WhatsApp programs as well.

"We have reduced click bait, we have reduced the ability for people who run ad farms to be successful on our platform and all these things together have reduced the spread of fake news on our platform,” said Samidh Chakrabarti, the director of product management and civic engagement for Facebook.

When it comes to election security, cyber security firm Symantec is raising eyebrows with a video showing how easy it is to hack a voting machine.

Local jurisdictions say everything is being closely monitored, with machines being regularly tested and under lock and key.

Fairfax County in Virginia pointed out its ballot machines are never connected to WiFi or the internet. In Prince George's County in Maryland, which still relies mainly on paper ballots, officials say they are taking advantage of help available from the federal government.

“We are confident. We have been working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and have been heartened by their preliminary findings of their assessment of our systems,” said Nikki Charlson, deputy administrator for the Maryland State Board of Elections. “We have put in place enhanced reporting and monitoring.”

With allegations of voter fraud, everybody is stepping up their efforts. Loudoun County in Virginia says they do not want to give up too much information about their methods, but they have been holding training sessions with election officials.

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