Despite the assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and will continue this type of activity in the future, there has been little national action. This paper contends that the inaction partially stems from political and bureaucratic obstacles to preparing a US response to any future interference—including obstacles to overcoming public apathy, the concern that any measures taken might favor one political party, and federalism questions that arise whenever the federal government considers proposals affecting state election conduct. Additionally, efforts to prevent election interference in the future raise important questions about the role of social media companies and other private actors in protecting their platforms from exploitation by foreign adversaries―as well as the limits of the federal government’s ability to act.
Addressing future interference now―and not in the run-up to the 2020 US elections―is critical to mounting a more effective response to any future interference. This paper proposes doing so through three principal means: building broad-based demands for action; setting up a “dead man’s switch” response which creates a presumptive set of US responses when interference is detected; and enabling the private sector to address interference.
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