In a statement, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said the goal was to “build on previous discussions and further strengthen strategic collaboration regarding the security of the 2020 U.S. state, federal, and presidential elections." He said they discussed ways to “improve how we share information and coordinate our response to better detect and deter threats.”
Google, Microsoft and Twitter each confirmed their attendance, without elaborating on the subject of their discussions.
The gathering marked the first such meeting involving industry and government of its size this year to address 2020 election security, according to one of the sources familiar with the proceedings. There “was a high degree of interest” to do similar meetings in the future and continue the joint coordination that began last year to prepare for the midterms, the person said.
For social-media companies, the stakes are high nearly three years after Russian agents took to Facebook, Google and Twitter to spread propaganda and stoke social and political unrest during the 2016 election. In response, each of the tech companies has improved their digital defenses, honing their tools to spot and remove harmful content — but the threats have intensified as well, becoming more sophisticated and global.
In recent months, for example, Facebook, Google and Twitter had to contend with the spread of viral, manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They’ve also taken action against disinformation campaigns launched by Iran targeting the United States. And they recently disabled a network of coordinated inauthentic activity tied to China, focused on the protests in Hong Kong, marking the first time Beijing had ever been accused of such efforts online.
Adding to the challenge, one of President Trump’s campaign surrogates on Monday promoted a popular conspiracy theory on Twitter that falsely tied Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic contender for the White House in 2020, to the shootings in Odessa, Texas, that left seven dead and 22 wounded. It prompted a sharp rebuke from O’Rourke’s campaign manager, who said Facebook, Google and Twitter should take more responsibility — and not leave it to “the victims of misinformation attacks” to handle the problem.