In an effort to reduce false information designed to undermine its elections, Connecticut officials have hired a cybersecurity analyst to monitor social media posts and flag misinformation before it goes viral.
During the 2020 election cycle, a Twitter user reported that a truck hauling ballots had flipped over on Interstate 95, scattering completed ballots across the highway. It wasn’t true and, after state officials reported it, Twitter took it down.
The tweet and others like it including another user who falsely claimed to have received absentee ballots for dead family members contributed to the decision to hire the election information security analyst. The new post is part of a broader, $2 million campaign to root out bad voting information ahead of the 2022 statewide elections.
In an interview in June, Gabe Rosenberg, chief of staff and general counsel to Secretary of the State Mark Kohler, said the new analyst mirrored steps taken in recent years by states like California and Colorado. Connecticut contracted a consultant to do a similar job in 2020.
“Everyone knows this is a problem. This is the solution we came up with to help ameliorate the problem,” Rosenberg said. “It was successful in 2020 and we would like to make it permanent because this problem is not going away.”
The new security analyst, Anthony Pollicito, comes from a cybersecurity and IT background and will scan social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Tik-Tok as well as online forums like reddit and 4-chan. He’ll be tasked with flagging incorrect information related to voting in Connecticut and reporting the post to the website’s administrators. The position pays $120,000 a year.
Republican lawmakers have remained skeptical of the position and have been wary it will be used for partisan political purposes, since the Democratic Party maintains control over the office.
“Considering that it was our increasingly partisan Secretary of the State that empowered Democrat campaigns to manipulate the absentee ballot application process during last fall’s municipal elections, this initiative deserves ongoing scrutiny to ensure it doesn’t devolve into a political witch hunt backed by the bureaucracy of state government,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora has said.
However, Rosenberg said the analyst’s focus will be limited to election administration.
“Two candidates lying about each other is not our business. Vaccine misinformation? Not our business,” Rosenberg said. “The only thing we’re worried about is the mechanics of elections. We’ve seen an uptick nationally of bad information and we want to catch it closer to its source than when we see it go viral on Facebook and 10,000 people have seen it.”