(WSVN) - Floridians are already voicing their choice in the 2020 general election, and already, the feds say cyber criminals are spreading disinformation looking to undermine faith in the outcome. The Nightteam’s Karen Hensel shows us how to separate fact from fiction in tonight’s 7Investigates.
Conspiracy theories about major events in American history are nothing new.
The moon landing being faked on a Hollywood sound stage.
The Sept. 11th terrorist attacks being carried out by the U.S. government.
The belief the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax.
But in recent years, social media has enabled lies and disinformation to spread like a virus.
Professor Joseph Uscinski, University of Miami political science professor: “About 1 in 3 Americans believe that coronaivirus is a bioweapon either intentionally created or intentionally spread to harm people.”
And now, conspiracy theories about the 2020 election are front and center.
University of Miami political science Professor Joseph Uscinski is studying the role they’re playing in a bitterly divided country.
Joseph Uscinski: “This year, we expect to find that there’s gonna be a heightened level of people believing in fraud going into the election, and this is largely going to be due to our political leaders talking about fraud quite a bit, and that concerns us.”
For months, we’ve heard claims that mail-in ballots will lead to vote rigging.
President Donald Trump: “We have to be very careful with the ballots. The ballots, that’s a whole big scam. Everyone knows mail-in ballots are a disaster.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden: “All the irresponsible, outrageous attacks on voting — we’ll have an election in this country as we always have had.”
The topic of secure elections was part of a senate hearing in September with testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Christopher Wray, FBI Director: “We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election.”
But the FBI is already warning of “foreign actors and cyber criminals” spreading false information “in an attempt to manipulate public opinion” and “discredit the electoral process.”
Joseph Uscinski: “There’s a paradox here, and that is that the people who are going to believe that the vote is rigged against them probably aren’t going to believe the FBI when it says that it’s not.”
Last week, the heads of four federal agencies in charge of ensuring the security of the election appeared in a video together.
Christopher Wray (in video): “Hi, I’m Chris Wray, director of the FBI.”
Gen. Paul M Nakasone (in video): “I’m General Paul M. Nakason, Commander of United States Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency.”
Christopher Krebs: “I’m Chris Krebs, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”
Bill Evanina (in video): “I’m Bill Evanina, Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center.”
Authorities sending a united message they’re on top of any real threats while reassuring Americans.
Christopher Krebs, Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: “There’s been a lot of talk about efforts to hack our elections over the last four years, and some of you might be wondering whether the 2020 elections will be secure. Well, I’m here today to tell you that my confidence in the security of your vote has never been higher.”
Meanwhile, Professor Uscinski says people should not equate isolated problems with widespread fraud.
Like, when a mail carrier in New Jersey was arrested for dumping mail that included 99 ballots, but for some, that will be easier said than done.
Joseph Uscinski: “There are just people out there who think that the system is rigged, and they’re prone to buying into conspiracy theories, and you will probably be sitting next to one of them at Thanksgiving.”
Disinformation is designed to make you feel emotions like anger or shock, so before you share or link, stop and think. Question the source and always cross-check questionable claims by searching trusted sites.
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