Disinformation may be nation’s greatest enemy

Some  claim it’s too late to do anything about the problem.
Following the 2016 election it was indisputable that Russia carried out a massive disinformation campaign to influence its outcome. Yet, no investigation ever determined that actual votes were ever changed at the polls.
However, just recently, the FBI and the federal Department of Homeland Security declared Russian cyber actors probably did research and reconnaissance against every state’s election system in 2016.
In light of these threats and others, it’s imperative everyone be vigilant about online disinformation and actual attempts to hack into election networks.
But perhaps nowhere is that responsibility greater than with our secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, and by all appearances he takes this threat seriously.
Not only has Secretary of State Mac Warner sought to build a dialogue with  public officials, political parties and their candidates, but also with our youth about this issue.
Since his election, his office’s Information Technology Division  upgraded its abilities and hired a cyber-security expert — a full-time “cyber-guard.”
But we were most impressed to learn  Warner is conducting a tour of state high schools to educate young people about the dangers of spreading such disinformation online.
The program is  currently being evaluated by the state Board of Education and the federal DHS. Later, it’s expected to be evaluated for release in schools nationwide.
Our newspaper applauds this effort to display the kinds of posts, memes and images put on social media by Russian accounts. In case anyone thinks such online disinformation faded away after 2016, they would be wrong. If anything, it has become more sophisticated and pervasive.
According to the DHS, 5,956 “inciting” Instagram posts were created by Russian accounts in 2017, up from 2,611 in 2016. These accounts spawn tweets, Facebook posts, videos and mentions on other forms of media.
It’s nothing new that young people and adults are cautioned not to jump to conclusions based on social media posts. However, when the bad actors are our nation’s greatest adversary every American must be on guard against such efforts.
It’s important to check out what we see and read about candidates and issues and not perpetuate it by letting our emotions — and opinions — run wild.
Warner’s efforts to heighten awareness about intentional disinformation online by foreign agents is well-advised.
In an age when we cannot talk about the weather without politics intruding,  it’s critical to get our facts straight.
Especially when the subject is the cornerstone of our government — our elections.

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