US official: Russia using social media to divide Americans
Published 7:14 am Monday, July 16, 2018
PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. homeland security secretary said on Saturday there are no signs that Russia is targeting this year’s midterm elections with the same “scale or scope” it targeted the 2016 presidential election.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen spoke at a convention of state secretaries of state, an event that’s usually a low-key affair highlighting voter registration, balloting devices and election security issues that don’t get much public attention. But coming amid fresh allegations into Russia’s attempts to sway the 2016 election, the sessions on election security have a higher level of urgency and interest.
Nielsen said her agency will help state and local election officials prepare their systems for cyberattacks from Russia or elsewhere. She said U.S. intelligence officials are seeing “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people, though not necessarily focused on specific politicians or political campaigns.”
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The conference of top state election officials she addressed was sandwiched between Friday’s indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence officers alleged to have hacked into Democratic party and campaign accounts and Monday’s long-awaited meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has never condemned Russia over meddling in the 2016 election despite the findings of all top U.S. intelligence agencies, and the Kremlin has insisted it didn’t meddle in the U.S. election. In the past, Trump has reiterated Putin’s denials, but this week he said he would bring up the issue when they meet on Monday in Finland.