Sunday Talks, CBS Cybersecurity Expert States Global Crisis More Likely if U.S. Blue Checks are Changed on Twitter

Posted originally on the conservative November 6, 2022 | Sundance

The media pearl-clutching over changes to the Twitter social media platform has become detached from reality.  During a Face the Nation discussion today, a very serious Margaret Brennan and Kris Krebs, former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) outline the national security risks created by Elon Musk’s change to the “verified Twitter user” system.  The “blue checks.”

Mr Krebs outlined how bad actors from Russia, Iran and China could potentially write mean words on Twitter and create social collapse in the United States as a result of election interference, defined as misinformation and disinformation.  Additionally, the unified western military order is at risk from the national security threat posed by allowing random unmonitored discussion on a social media platform.  With the midterm election this week, people could die if Elon Musk removes the control filters on the global conversation.  WATCH:

[Transcript] – […] BRENNAN: We return to our conversation now about election security with CBS News, cybersecurity expert and analyst Chris Krebs. Chris, I want to talk about something that’s happening right now. Social media has already changed the way we communicate and, certainly, our political world. President Biden said a few days ago that he has concerns about billionaire Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter- said, “the platform spews lies all across the world. There’s no editors anymore in America, there are no editors, how do we expect kids to be able to understand what is at stake?” It’s not just kids, right? What concerns do you have about this happening just days before the election, these changes to Twitter?

KREBS: Well, I think I think the government for one has a mechanism by which they can review the acquisition, the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States can take a look at particularly the second and third ownership positions in Twitter, including Saudi Arabia. That is something that I’m assuming that the Treasury Department is taking a look at right now to see if they can put in place a national security agreement or even potentially unwind the purchase. But I think more specifically to what’s happening right now with Twitter, I think there are kind of- there are two “Elons” that we are seeing. There’s the public Elon, that’s, you know, trolling and saying $8, please, on all the complaints about some of the shifts in the moderation and other activities. Then there’s what’s happening behind the scenes, the conversations with the civil rights groups, with advertisers, with the teens, which perhaps maybe a little bit more stable. And I think if you look at the platform itself right now, not a whole lot has changed. That may not be a popular opinion, but I think the reality is that most, you haven’t seen too much of a change in the moderation. Now, the concern, though, is what happens tomorrow, where you can buy the blue tick for $8 a month, Twitter Blue–

MARGARET BRENNAN: For our viewers who don’t use Twitter, a blue check is a sign of credibility. 

KREBS: It has historically been a marker of trust, and that Twitter has said, we’ve confirmed and authenticated the identity of this person, which tends to be a politician, or a news media personality or a journalist, an academic or someone that may be a popular voice in certain civil rights, civil liberties issue. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now you can buy it for eight bucks a month.

KREBS: Along with a number of other features of editing and longer-form video posting. But again, to have such a dramatic shift in that marker of trust, now you can buy it, in advance of as we’ve been talking about a very contentious and important election. It opens the information space to a broader community of influencers, clout chasers, election denialists–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Foreign actors?

KREBS: Absolutely, I mean, we’ve seen reports lately of Russia, China and Iran, back at their old tricks, and it is going to create a very chaotic environment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: To that point in- in 2018, during the midterms, [U.S] Cyber Command took offensive operations to take out Russian trolls who are spreading misinformation. The New York Times has a story today saying Russia is back at it. What does that say to you about U.S. defenses?

KREBS: Well, I think so Recorded Future and Graphika, two research firms have released information that Russian bots, trolls, associated with the Internet Research Agency, which is a group that targeted since the 2016 and the 2018 election, are back at it and are undermining this time Democratic candidates for Senate in some of the- the more contentious races. I think what it says is that the- there’s a broader community of actors, they recognize that political discourse is very divisive here in the US, and they have more opportunities, probably than ever before, to continue to undermine confidence to create chaos, which is really, their primary objective here. It’s not necessarily that a winner wins, but that we’ve all lost- lost confidence and they degrade the American democracy experiment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are also a number of sitting Senators, and of note, Ambassador Richard Grinnell former President Trump’s Acting Director of National Intelligence has been posting some misleading information, that’s him on the screen, about the election. He said, “any state which doesn’t count all the votes and announce the winner Tuesday night is incompetent.”–

KREBS: So all 50 states then, by that formulation,

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because what you’re saying is just the fact that votes are never finalized on election night. But why do you think someone who knows better is posting something like that?

KREBS: Well, whether he knows better, I can’t assume that, but the point here is that it’s for clout chasing, it’s for influence. There’s a reward system and structure set up right now within the far-right of the GOP that provides additional engagement. So, you tweet something like that, and you can see your likes, your retweets, your amplification really take off. And if you’re just talking about some other, you know, more mundane domestic issue, nobody cares. But there’s a reward system and incentive structure that’s set up where exactly this sort of messaging is- is rewarded. It’s encouraged, and, and this is again, going back to Governor Sununu’s comments, we need leaders to lead. We need the presumptive leaders of the Republican Party to stand up and say this is unacceptable, this is not how it works. We need to be good faith actors in this process and unfortunately, leaders aren’t leading right now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chris Krebs, thank you as always for your analysis and we will see you on election night as part of CBS coverage at our democracy desk here at CBS News.  (LINK)


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