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Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is joined by fellow Democratic members of the House and Senate this summer to discuss legislation that would attempt to prevent hacking into the country's election systems. Intelligence officials announced late last week an outline for how to release information about possible hacks during the 2020 elections.

Intel community promising more transparency about election hacking efforts

A year from the presidential election, U.S. intelligence agencies have adopted a new framework for how they will inform candidates, groups and the public about attempts to disrupt our country's elections by foreign operatives.

But the one-page summary of the plan, released late last week, is so general that it remains unclear what the intelligence community plans to do if and when it discovers something suspicious.

The summary by the director of national intelligence states that the federal government will "follow a process and principles designed to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that notification decisions are consistent, well-informed and unbiased."

The new framework is designed to prevent a repeat of some of what happened after the 2016 election.


Three years ago some local, state and national officials complained about not being immediately informed by the intelligence community about how the balloting under their purview had been touched by the attempted hacking by Russia as part of its efforts to tilt the election to Donald Trump.

Florida officials, for example, were caught off guard when special counsel Robert Mueller's final report this spring detailed attempted interference in that bellwether state. Republcian Gov. Ron DeSantis was told in a follow-up meeting with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials that there were two counties in which voter registration systems were breached. Then, this fall the Senate Intelligence Committee put the number at four in its final report on what went wrong in 2016, although no one is officially identifying which counties were targeted.

Still, authorities insist, no votes were affected by the hacking, in Florida or anywhere else.

According to the new framework, "partisan politics shall not play a role in the decision to provide notifications."

In addition, its says, the notification decisions:

  • "Shall be intended to protect the integrity of political and social discourse."
  • "Will take into account the need to protect sensitive sources and methods."
  • "Will consider whether providing notification will help deter foreign influence and protect the public, and will avoid amplifying foreign interference activity or re-victimizing the targets of such activities."

If the intelligence community wants to provide notification, the framework calls for that decision to be reviewed by a panel of experts including senior representatives of the DNI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the State Department, DHS and the FBI.

For broad public notifications, the DNI will convene a meeting of the "principals to assess whether the notification should be made."

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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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