Are elections in WA safe from cybersecurity attacks and misinformation? Here’s what experts say
In her 26 years working in elections, Thurston County Auditor Mary Hall said she never thought she would have to become a cybersecurity or election misinformation expert.
“Prior to 2016, we were the people who never wanted to be in the paper because if you were in the paper that meant you made an error, or something went wrong … so you never wanted it to be you,”
Hall told McClatchy. “And now, we have to be out there, we have to be out there telling our story, we have to debunk misinformation before it gets out of control.” Hall said she is no stranger to misinformation, mal-information or disinformation.
During the 2020 presidential election, Hall said a picture was circulated on Facebook of a truck with a ballot box in the back alongside a caption that claimed the box had been stolen. The truth was much simpler: a local auditor had picked up a used ballot box from a neighboring county, and happened to stop at a mall with the empty box in his truck. Luckily, she said, she was able to get the photo taken down within 12 to 14 hours.
Had the photo gone viral, Hall said the concerns could have gotten out of control as the misinformation spread. She said her office has a good relationship with social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, so if misinformation is caught early enough, it is easy to take down.
Hall thinks the motives of misinformation and disinformation stem from certain bad actors who want to “erode our democracy,” which is also why she thinks the issue has become so critical to combat now.