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Mark Warner ‘gravely concerned’ about foreign influence in 2024 election

Chris Graham
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Our nation has had a presidential election decided by Congress, another lead to a civil war, a third, after that civil war, decided by a compromise that ushered in a century of racial segregation.

And yet, as we head into the 2024 presidential cycle, the one we’re about to have might be where we’ve most been vulnerable.

And to hear U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tell is, we’re not prepared.

“I am gravely concerned that as we go into the 2024 election, we will see foreign malign influence in terms of misinformation and disinformation, coming from Russia, coming from China, coming from Iran, and other nation-states that we’re adversaries with. And my concern is, and I wrote the head of CISA, the cybersecurity agency that is supposed to be working with the social media companies and others, I don’t think we’re nearly as prepared in 2024, frankly, I don’t think we’re as prepared in 2024 as we were in 2020,” Warner told reporters on a conference call this week.

The role that social media played in the dissemination of foreign adversary misinformation has taken a backseat in the government security consciousness to the threat that the former president, Donald Trump, who outright tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election through a coup d’etat, poses as the likely Republican Party nominee in the 2024 cycle.

And Trump, with willing co-conspirators in the form of a domestic media ecosystem, led by the likes of Fox News, but expanded with the growth of even more out-there right-wing fake-news networks like Newsmax and OAN, doesn’t need the Russians, Chinese and Iranians to do the heavy lifting.

With Trump’s continued false claims about the 2020 election amplified by the fake-news right, we’re at a point where roughly a third of the American adult population thinks the 2020 election was rigged, translating to about 100 million people who have let themselves be hoodwinked into believing Trump’s Big Lie.

TikTok, a China-owned and -operated social media app that boasts 75 million active monthly users in the U.S., skewing toward the younger age demographics, has been playing a noticeable role in sewing the seeds of election denial the past couple of years.

And then there’s Twitter/X, which was bought in 2022 by far-right billionaire Elon Musk, and remade in his basic-facts-denying image.

Twitter/X’s reach has declined since the Musk takeover, to about 50 million active monthly users, but it has become the ultimate Wild West of misinformation, with Musk having gutted the platform’s information security operations in the name of protecting his one-sided view of free speech.

Factor in the increasing growth in popularity in the utilization of AI technology, and it’s easy to see the vast arsenal that bad players have at their disposal to move us in the direction of the 1984 world that they want us all to live in.

In the meantime, the good guys are reduced to fighting for the ability to simply be able to fight back. A far-right-backed lawsuit making its way through the courts has challenged the federal government’s ability to “even have voluntary communications with the social media companies,” Warner noted, “and if we can’t have that kind of linkage and in stopping for malign influence, our hands are going to be tied.”

“And there are some of these social media platforms, Twitter/X in particular, who simply are just not very collaborative, not just here in the United States, but in terms of election protection efforts around the world. So, I’ve contacted CISA. I’m trying to help. Our Intelligence Committee is going to be holding hearings on this issue. We need to be better prepared,” Warner said.

“I think we need the administration, frankly, to lean in more, regardless of this Texas case, and communicate more with the social media companies so that we can work hand in hand,” Warner said. “You know, I’m not talking about limiting anybody’s First Amendment rights. We can, we as Americans can debate any issue we want. I’m focused on foreign malign influence. And if we can’t talk to the social media companies who are oftentimes the distributors of this misinformation and disinformation, even the ones who want to do the right thing, then our ability to educate Americans about these tools that may manipulate either in images or in text is going to be greatly undermined.”

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].