Several articles here on RedState and other sites like Politico have detailed how technology could be used to influence an election. There have also been several articles about Donald Trump’s free media advantage. But while the former sets of articles focus on what could and may happen and the latter article focuses on how an advantage is visible to anyone who studies it, Bloomberg just published a story on the reality of it.
According to the allegations of a convicted hacker, he has managed to influence several elections through the use of illegal means. In this modern era, Internet sites like the Drudge Report are heavily influential based on how they paint candidates. While the media is blatantly biased, Internet sites such as Facebook feature biases that are more subtle, and yet no less potentially dangerous. To quote the hacker:
When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything.
The article on the hacker is well worth a read. Whether believable or not, this gentleman appears to have had a hand in causing significant damage to opponents all based on dirty tricks, including tapping phones and accounts. He also paid people to generate social media accounts automatically that could be used to start trends. All of his work indicated an intelligence for his purposes, but with zero desire to respect the will of voters.
The Republican Party is working with a deficit in technology. Our campaign systems are not the equivalent of our Democratic counterparts. We need to devote energy to our gaps now, if only to keep at parity and stay on top of the myriad ways that candidates are being compromised. Eerily enough, the Netflix series House of Cards featured in its latest season a subplot where the NSA’s systems were used to provide a competitive advantage to the President while a Google-like company was used to influence subtly the electorate for the opposing candidate. The show is prescient in terms of identifying just how powerful technical analysis has become.
It is a fact that candidates often employ dirty tricks. This has been the case for millennia. The difference is both that the last time a President was caught red-handed he was forced to resign and and also that what we don’t know can indeed hurt us. The President in power has a profound advantage in terms of spying on citizens and influencing votes surreptitiously. We need to identify weak points, including the ease with which hackers clone phones, and shore them up. And we need to encourage candidates and their staff to follow guidance on security in communication.
Hillary Clinton is illustrating the folly of hosting your own server. While she was willing to allow government secrets to get stolen as Secretary of State, most likely she will not be of a similar mindset during the campaign season. As President, why wouldn’t she once again turn on the server in her bathroom closet?
Donald Trump, according to the article, had at least one or more members of his staff flirt with a similar strategy. It is one more reason we need to think long and hard about our security. To quote Sophocles, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” In 2016, the quote should read “I would prefer even to win with honor than to lose from my opponent’s cheating.”