Ahead of the 2020 election: National response to confront foreign interference

The center will be co-directed by Dan Boneh, the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the School of Engineering and head of the Applied Cryptography Group and Nathaniel Persily, the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. Stanford scholars also include Eileen Donahoe, former Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Andrew Grotto, a former senior director for cybersecurity policy at the White House in both the Obama and Trump administrations and Alex Stamos, a former chief security officer at Facebook.

The report’s publication coincides with the launch of the new center, which convened at an all-day event on 6 June.

Policy recommendations
According to the Securing American Elections report, it should be expected that additional domestic and foreign actors will join Russia in future attempts to use social media and cyber technologies to interfere with U.S. elections.

“There is no greater nightmare than a computer being hacked on election day that distorts votes,” McFaul said. “So, we have in the report several different recommendations about how to prevent that from happening – including at the top of the list, a paper trail for every ballot that’s cast.”

The report is comprised of eight chapters that identify ongoing issues and recommendations that add up to more than 45 actionable measures. Chapters, and example recommendations, include:

·  Increasing the security of the U.S. election infrastructure through a combination of independent code inspections and test attacks by teams who would attempt everything real hackers would try, such as exploiting technological or procedural flaws in the system’s security system.

·  Enhancing transparency about foreign involvement in U.S. elections by banning the use of foreign consultants and foreign companies in U.S. political campaigns and publishing information about connections with foreign nationals and governments. That way voters can make their own informed decisions about the appropriateness of these contacts, McFaul said.

·  Confronting efforts at election manipulation from foreign media organizations by labeling content produced by government-aligned media to provide consumers with more information about where the information originates.

·  Combating organized disinformation campaigns from state-aligned actors by creating standardized guidelines for labeling content affiliated with disinformation campaign producers and limiting online targeting capabilities for political advertising.

·  Regulating online political advertising by foreign governments and nationals by explicitly prohibiting foreign governments and individuals from purchasing online advertisements that target the American electorate.

·  Establishing international norms and agreements to prevent election interference by appointing a designated U.S. government representative on election interference.

·  Deterring foreign governments from election interference by signaling a clear and credible commitment to respond to election interference. To date, the U.S. has not developed or executed a coherent strategy to prevent foreign adversaries from intervening in American elections, the report’s authors said.

U.S. elections must be free and fair, the report authors conclude. American voters must choose their leaders alone – without interference from actors seeking to undermine democracy.

“Achieving this requires a coordinated response,” Persily said. “You can’t just have engineers deal with this problem and you can’t just have politicians. You need a concerted response with people from across disciplines tackling the issue. You need the computer scientists, technologists, lawyers, economists, political scientists and ethicists,” said Persily, who is also a co-author on the Securing American Elections report.

The Securing American Elections report is the first white paper published by the Stanford Cyber Policy Center.