Uh oh, ya'll.

"How an ‘Ethical’ Hacker Convention Is Fueling Trump’s Big Lie"

A few days a year, hacking enthusiasts at DEFCON race to see if they can prove voting machines are not secure. The event is fodder for disinformation.

Given that I'm getting involved with election misinformation research, I'd love to be able to fact-check this (false claims of disinformation are also harmful to securing election integrity). If anyone wants to chat about it on this thread, I feel like people here would have some constructive things to say about it.

@vortex_egg oh for fsck sake. What a prime example of sensationalism fueled by purposeful misuse of the words "hacker" and "hack", and conscious taking the whole thing completely out of its context.

@rysiek @vortex_egg Took the media long enough to get to this. This is like candy to them.

@vortex_egg It's super disappointing that this was covered in Vice, seemingly without any sort of consultation from the editorial staff of Vice Motherboard, who I feel would have a much more even headed takes.

It's not wrong, factually, but like... it's not right either.

@rgegriff It makes a lot of insinuations by juxtaposing unrelated events, and using unattributed quotes to imply things.

@vortex_egg Right! Exactly! It's like "I always seem to see firefighters at the seen of every arson... SUSPICIOUS!"

@vortex_egg I think this kinda gets into the general pattern of dissolving nuance and context in popular discourse; I think it applies to this, and things like CoV researchers who's work might be taken out of context.

so in that light perhaps there is a point to it, just as it might be dangerous to publicize prelim research that, as a purely illustrative NON FACTUAL example "in certain cases some vaccines might not be as effective as initially thought"...

@vortex_egg perhaps it's also dangerous to promote theoretical attacks against election infrastructure.

But, to counterpoint that counterpoint; if the goal of the researchers is to urge caution, and temper investment and use of electronic voting systems; particularly future ones that might be networked and have no paper inputs; then perhaps it IS prudent to sound the alarm.

Not sure how these two competing threats should be balanced

My gut feel is, I recall while the voting security stuff was going on, I kept expecting the right to pick up the ball and run with it... And I never saw them do it. When they eventually did bring up vote security in any way other than trying to malign mailing ballots, it was clumsy, and I never saw them cite the Defcon stuff well. It was always spoiled ballots, bad data entry, whatever. I was watching for it to come up because the fuel for the fire was Right There, and didn't see it happen.

@feonixrift @vortex_egg I think the fact that the majority of voting was done on paper helped, in that case, rather than harmed. You had literal physical artifacts that any sighted human could view and count.

Of course, many still didn't believe; but instead of a plausible, hard to falsify digital attack; you had things like spoiled ballots and the frankly racist implication that we should look for bamboo fibers in ballots to see if they had been sent from China (which WAS examined in AZ)

Secret bamboo ballot paper smuggling is more understandable than software security, so it sounds more plausible to these folks.

@feonixrift @vortex_egg Haha, yea. But my point is more understandable to non-technical folk (of which racist idiots are a non-exclusive subset) works in everyone's favor. If trust in any core piece of infrastructure depends on technical knowledge of the mechanics and implementation of said infrastructure; everyone is fucked the minute bad actors start spreading disinfo.

Bad actors can effectively spread disinfo about a pen and paper, I don't think keeping it simple is adequate.

@rgegriff @feonixrift We discussed in my research group that increasingly complex systems (or complex election laws) does introduce the opportunity for additional anchor points that a misinformation trope can be associated with.

At the same time, I’m not sure that is by itself an argument for making actual systems simpler. Systems should be as simple as they need to be to accomplish their functional goal. I’m not yet sure that that maxim should include avoiding disinfo.

A system made inadequate to model its problem space is asking for misinformation because correct information would require it to be dismissed as half-assed claptrap.

@feonixrift @rgegriff Hah yeah I ran out of space, but yes. Systems shouldn't be any more simple than they need to be either. I think my point was that misinfo/disinfo trope generation is orthogonal to functional system design — the complexity of simplicity of a system could be used as "evidence" of a nefarious plot regardless of whether the complexity is fitted to the original function of the system or not.

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A bunch of technomancers in the fediverse. Keep it fairly clean please. This arcology is for all who wash up upon it's digital shore.