Sen. Warner Warns About 'Deep Fake Technology' Corrupting the 2020 Election

By Susan Jones | July 25, 2019 | 11:53am EDT
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned about political interference as well as foreign interference in state-run elections. (Photo: Screen capture)

( - Russia used fake social media posts as part of its effort to interfere in the 2016 election, prompting warnings that we shouldn't believe everything we read online.

In 2020, we shouldn't believe everything we see and hear online, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking member of the intelligence committee, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday.

"We saw in 2016 the creation of fake accounts where somebody says they're Mike but it's actually Ivan in St. Petersburg," Warner said.

"In 2020, we're going to see what's called deep fake technology, where you may have news figures or political figures, their faces appear, their voices sounding like the actual person, with that all being a fake, contrived video livestreaming, coming at you from your favorite account."

Warner was asked about the possibility that hostile nations could change actual vote counts in the next presidential election:

"Well, I think there is that possibility," he replied. "What I think is a greater possibility is not getting in, necessarily, and altering the vote count. But if you go upstream into some of these companies, and three companies control about 90 percent of the voter files, if you simply were to change a few thousand folks from one precinct to another, you wouldn't have to change the vote file.

"You would simply have chaos on election day when people showed up at the polling place and are told they're on the wrong spot. There are so many ways that they can mess with our election. And all the more reason why we need to put these rules in place."

Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller told Congress on Wednesday that Russia is still trying to interfere in the U.S. election: "They're doing it as we sit here. And they expect to do it during the next campaign," he said.

Warner said that was his "big takeaway" from the Mueller hearings -- "that the Russians felt they were successful in 2016, and they'll be back in 2020."

"And what kind of makes me crazy is we're not doing enough to actually make our country better protected. There's common sense things we can do, simple things," Warner said.

Warner wants to pass a bill requiring campaigns to tell the FBI if a foreign government offers help or tries to intervene.

"Let me go through a couple other simple things...Every ballot ought to have a paper ballot backup. We ought to make sure that if a country attacks us, we put sanctions on them and they know that ahead of time," Warner said.

"We ought to make sure in social media there's a requirement to report if foreigners or others advertise. We need some guardrails around Facebook and Twitter. These are things that would get an overwhelming majority of the votes, but this White House and the Majority Leader refuse to allow any of these bills to come to the floor, and that to me is not making our country safer."

Sen. Warner was asked twice why Republicans oppose election security bills, but he did not give an answer, other than to blame Trump administration "reluctance."

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell laid it out in a July 10 floor speech:

McConnell said there's no doubt that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election, and he said he and everyone else in Congress takes the threat of future interference very seriously.

But McConnell said that's no reason to give Washington politicians "greater control over something this important."

He noted that the 2018 midterm election had fewer hitches than the 2016 presidential election, and he listed all the steps that have been taken since 2016 to improve election security:

"The adminstration directed resources through the Department of Homeland Security to help local election authorities implement stronger cybersecurity measures. Information-sharing was streamlined between DHS, FBI and state and local officials. They worked hard to gain the trust of state election officials in my state of Kentucky and around the country and provide them with valuable information through a voluntary information-sharing program that has seen participation from all 50 states and 1,400 localities.

"Here in Congress, we appropriated hundreds of millions of dollars in additiional aid for state governments to strengthen their systems. And our efforts continue."

McConnell warned against "political interference in the constitutionally protected role of the states to conduct elections."

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