Facebook and Microsoft met with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) to explain recent actions they’ve taken to combat foreign threats.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were also involved in the meeting.
The focus of the call was for these private companies to share with public officials what steps they have taken to protect against bad actors trying to influence elections.
“DHS works with a broad range of partners to understand and stop malicious cyber actors, whether they are attempting to interfere with elections, infiltrate critical infrastructure, or simply collect intelligence from policy makers, these actions reinforce the need for government and industry to work together to secure the homeland and protect our democracy,” Christopher Krebs, under secretary for the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate, said. “Facebook’s and Microsoft’s announcements continue to underscore the important role the private sector has in combating this threat. Like cybersecurity, countering foreign influence is a shared responsibility, and these calls are an important indicator of the level of cooperation between our public and private partners to share information and take action.”
Relationships with the private sector are a pillar of the FBI’s strategy to combat foreign influence operations, said Michael McGarrity, acting executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch.
“Companies have a key role in taking action to secure their networks and platforms. Working together with our partners, the FBI shares actionable intelligence to better enable these companies to address any abuse of their systems by foreign actors. We look forward to continuing this two-way communication between government and the private sector, which is vital in protecting our democratic institutions and values,” McGarrity said.
Kevin Martin, vice president of public policy at Facebook, said it requires a coordinated effort to combat these influence campaigns.
“Effectively combating coordinated information operations requires many parts of society working together, which is why Facebook believes so strongly in the need for collaboration between law enforcement, government agencies, security experts and other companies to confront these growing threats. We are grateful for the opportunity to brief state election officials on a recent call convened by DHS and again today as part of our continued effort to develop collaborative relationships between government and private industry,” Martin said.
Tom Burt, vice president, customer security and trust at Microsoft, said information sharing is critical.
“No one organization, department or individual can solve this issue alone, that’s why information sharing is so important. To really be successful in defending democracy, technology companies, government, civil society, the academic community and researchers need to come together and partner in new and meaningful ways,” Burt said.
With mid-term elections just a few months away, both public officials and the technology companies must be vigilant.
“I commend the efforts made by DHS and FBI to foster communication through today’s call with Facebook and Microsoft. It is clear that Secretaries of State, state election officials, federal agencies and private sector partners are working diligently together to defend against foreign threats in order to protect our democracy,” Jim Condos, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Vermont Secretary of State, said.