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Oklahoma's Top Elections Official Warns Misinformation is Biggest Security Threat in 2020


Oklahoma’s top elections official says misinformation is likely the biggest threat to the state’s elections in 2020, ahead of cyber threats and physical tampering.

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said misinformation can include false information about election laws and procedures, like claims different parties will be voting on different days.

"Also, and this is becoming all too common, there’s a growing trend of false accusations of voter suppression or voter fraud. Now, can suppression happen? Can fraud happen? Sure, but there are safeguards in place against both," Ziriax said.

Ziriax said misinformation should be reported to local and state election officials. He told the University of Southern California Election Cybersecurity Initiative Oklahoma’s statewide but siloed system is well-protected from other threats.

Like 2016, foreign actors could again be a major source and amplifier of that misinformation with social media posts aimed at voters. Sarah Mojarad, a misinformation expert with the University of Southern California, said no one was immune four years ago.

"Oftentimes, misinformation and bots are associated with one party in particular; however, … on both sides of politics and both sides of the election, misinformation and bots were influencing the discussions," Mojarad said.

Mojarad said rather than just sharing something, social media users should check out where and who a post came from first. Information coming from only one place, on a website with a URL that mirrors a credible site (think publicradiotulsa.org.ru) or that tries to incite an emotional response should raise red flags about accuracy.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.