For the second time in less than two months, the New York Times has reported that a progressive group of Democrats allegedly leveraged social media sites in a secret project intended to spread false information and sway the 2017 Senate race in Alabama.
According to the New York Times, “The ‘Dry Alabama’ campaign, not previously reported, was the stealth creation of progressive Democrats who were out to defeat Mr. Moore – the second such secret effort to be unmasked.”
In December 2018, a technologically savvy group of Alabama Democrats allegedly attempted to mimic tactics used by the Russians, who meddled in the 2016 presidential campaign, according to one of the group’s internal reports.
According to The Hill, Matt Osborne, a progressive activist who worked on the Dry Alabama campaign, said Democrats had no choice but to use disinformation if they wanted to level the playing field with Republicans. “If you don’t do it, you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back,” Osborne reportedly said. “You have a moral imperative to do this – to do whatever it takes.”
The reality is that this was the intentional creation of fake news. “It is akin to having a digital billboard or TV ad with incorrect facts,” said Chris Morales, head of security analytics at Vectra. “Since we have been successful using AI to detect attacker behaviors in real time, someone should ask a team of data scientists to find a way to use AI to detect political misinformation, since there seems to be more than an average person can sort through.”
Reportedly a participant in the Alabama project, Jonathon Morgan was chief executive of a small cybersecurity firm New Knowledge.
“First of all, I find it abhorrent that a firm would use ‘cybersecurity’ as part of its tagline if in fact they were conducting offensive maneuvers to sow disinformation,” said Paul Innella, CEO of Washington DC-based cybersecurity firm TDI.
“Cybersecurity professionals have an ethics code we follow, one which is endorsed when obtaining a number of certifications in our space. While it’s not the Hippocratic Oath, we still hold ourselves to a high standard – cybersecurity is defensive at its core. This is a slippery slope of the highest order if we are going to start using a field whose reputation is built on trust to now pivot to a field of propagating mistrust.”
The proper use of cybersecurity would enable detection of misinformation and impede the progress of spreading this kind of propaganda, Innella continued.
“A cyber task force should be formed that combines the awesome power of our intelligence and justice agencies to combat this ever-present danger. A threat to free and honest speech is a threat to our constitutional rights, one which demands an even more powerful response. We absolutely have the people and the technologies to address this growing danger, our government needs to employ it, diligently, and now.”