59 Items

A woman casts her ballot on the first day of early voting in a recently-shuttered store at Oak Park Mall Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in Overland Park, Kan.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Announcement - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Iran’s Reported Election Meddling: How We Can Defend Against Influence Operations

| Oct. 22, 2020

In light of these tactics and known interference, we must seek authoritative sources of information throughout this election season, report incidents that seem to confuse voting facts, and recognize our own role in responding to these types of attacks.

A staff member in the Kweisi Mfume campaign uses gloves while holding a cell phone during an election night news conference at his campaign headquarters after Mfume, a Democrat, won Maryland’s 7th Congressional District special election, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Baltimore.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez


The Election Influence Operations Playbook, Part 1

September 2020

Influence Operations (IO), also known as Information Operations, are a series of warfare tactics historically used to collect information, influence, or disrupt the decision making of an adversary. IO strategies intentionally disseminate information to manipulate public opinion and/or influence behavior. IO can involve a number of tactics, including spreading false information intentionally. This is known as “disinformation.”   

Skilled influence operations often deliberately spread disinformation in highly public places like social media. This is done in the hope that people who have no connection to the operation will mistakenly share this disinformation. Inaccurate information spread in error without malicious intent is known as “misinformation.” 

This playbook explores mis- and disinformation incidents that specifically focus on elections operations and infrastructure. Election officials may not often see or know what the motivation is behind the incidents encountered or whether they are mis- or disinformation. Throughout these guides we refer to mis/disinformation incidents together, as the strategies for countering or responding to them are the same.  

Voters wait in a line outside Broad Ripple High School to vote in the Indiana primary in Indianapolis, Tuesday, June 2, 2020 after coronavirus concerns prompted officials to delay the primary from its original May 5 date.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy


The Election Influence Operations Playbook, Part 2

September 2020

This section of the Playbook includes recommendations and materials focused on the response process. It will help election officials respond to election-related mis and disinformation incidents quickly and in a coordinated fashion. 

In this playbook, we refer to mis/disinformation throughout as one concept. Instances of both misinformation and disinformation in the elections process provide incorrect information to voters. Incorrect information can be conveyed intentionally or unintentionally. For election officials, any incorrect information, regardless of source or intention, presented to voters can pose a threat to elections, because it can undermine voters’ understanding of and trust in the election.

In this April 22, 2020 photo, Gerard Bakulikira, right, and captain Tim Daghelet, left, both wear a Romware COVID Radius digital bracelet, which flashes red when people are too close to each other and creates a log of contacts. 

AP Photo/Virginia Mayo


Considerations for Digital Contact Tracing Tools for COVID-19 Mitigation: Recommendations for Stakeholders and Policymakers

Many are looking to digital contact tracing to assist reopening efforts, especially in light of reports that the U.S. could expect as many as 100,000 more deaths due to the virus by this Fall. This report focuses on how the U.S. might consider various proposed solutions.

We believe there are real benefits, challenges, and even potential harms in using digital solutions in the fight against COVID-19, but we must also acknowledge that the promise of any technology and associated systems to assist manual contact tracing efforts is largely hypothetical in the United States. There is not one catch-all answer; the truth is that technology is not a panacea, but it may be able to assist official efforts at an unprecedented time. However, no technological solution can succeed without two specific factors: public trust and buy-in, and rapid, widespread testing for everyone living in the U.S. To achieve the first, a number of factors must be addressed by officials in the states looking to implement digital solutions, and by technology developers.

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- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Defending Digital Democracy Project Advances Election Security

Spring 2020

With the 2020 elections around the corner, we know that adversaries who seek to undermine democracy are preparing attacks—so states that run the elections must be ready. The Belfer Center’s bipartisan Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P) has been working with election officials across the country since 2017 to help them build defenses and better prepare for expected cyber and mis/disinformation attacks.

Voters line up in voting booths to cast their ballots at Robious Elementary School in Richmond, Va. on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The mural in the background was painted by 3rd and 4th graders at the school in preparation for Veterans Day.

Shelby Lum/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP


The Elections Battle Staff Playbook

December 2019

Our previous Playbooks have focused on the threats posed by cyber attacks and information operations. This Playbook has a broader scope, and equips you with strategies to operationalize the guidance from past Playbooks through effective preparation, communication, incident tracking, and team organization. By compiling best practices from private and public sector actors, we hope to enhance the capacity of your election team, regardless of your staff or jurisdiction size. It will better prepare you to identify issues and respond to incidents of all types during election operations.

- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Charting Cyber's Future

| Fall/Winter 2019-2020

From safeguarding elections - to engaging with China's cyber officials - to protecting user data, the Center's cyber initiatives are working to protect the public from digital dangers and make this technical arena more accessible. This fall, the Belfer Center named Lauren Zabierek, Maria Barsallo Lynch, and Julia Voo to head three of the Center’s growing cyber-related projects: The Cyber Project, Defending Digital Democracy Project (D3P), and China Cyber Policy Initiative (CCPI), respectively.

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Testimony - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Debora Plunkett Testimony to House Judiciary Committee Hearing "Securing America's Elections"

| Sep. 27, 2019

Debora A. Plunkett, Senior Fellow with the Defending Digital Democracy Project, testified before the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing Friday, September 27, 2019, titled "Securing America's Elections." Links are included to a video of the hearing and a PDF of Plunkett's testimony.