Oregon election officials get ready for a wave of misinformation, disinformation, and mal-information, or MDM. They’re subscribing to a service that will follow Oregon news sites, social media, podcasts, and the deep web. Alerts will allow them to provide timely corrections with links to accurate information. They plan to be ready in time for the elections in May 2024.
This summer, they met with potential vendors to discuss their Request for Proposal (RFP). On Aug. 30, Nikki Fisher and Phillip Andrews:
Phillip Andrews (SOS, procurement): My name is Phillip. I work for the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office as the procurement and contract lead.
Nikki Fisher (SOS, civic and elections education): Hi, I’m Nikki Fisher. I’m the civic and elections education director for the SOS.
[00:00:40] Phillip Andrews (SOS, procurement): In the last year or so, we’ve had multiple MDM-related RFPs, some of them on public education and PSAs, some of them have been on search engine optimization. This particular RFP, though, deals more with a technological solution that would help our agency to track and monitor trends related to mis-, dis-, and mal-information to Oregon elections.
[00:01:02] For the solution itself, we’re looking that it has to have the capability to monitor online media, right? like social media, news, etc. It needs to have the capability of providing us notifications, right? So, in terms of not just monitoring, but we’d like to be able to get alerts and notifications if (depending on how it’s configured) something would pique our interest, we’d like to be notified about it.
[00:01:21] Are there any questions? Okay, And so Nikki will dive more into the scope a bit, the scope of work and the business need and all that, because she’s the end customer, from my perspective. This is really to benefit Nikki and her team.
[00:01:34] Nikki Fisher (SOS, civic and elections education): Great, thanks Phillip. We began this work roughly around two years ago. And one of the things that we realized we could not do is have somebody monitoring the internet 24-7.
[00:01:45] And what we’re hoping to do is find a solution to be able to monitor different sites for mis- and disinformation; to monitor trends; to alert us about threats to safety and security.
[00:01:58] After the 2016 and the 2020 elections the spread of mis- and disinformation in elections and election integrity has been spreading across the country, not just across the country in places like Georgia and Arizona, but it’s including Oregon too. We saw a lot of increased climate of fear, uncertainty around elections.
[00:02:17] And we really thought that it was critical to ensure voters receive and know accurate information. And so one of the things that we really wanted to do was try to build trust in our election system. We wanted to make sure that Oregonians know that the vote-by-mail system is safe and secure and that voters have critically needed information, and so one of the things that we really wanted to try to do is build public trust and through that is getting a better handle on the spread of mis- and disinformation, really monitoring threat detection across various platforms, and then really having an opportunity to provide early warning systems to identify MDM and then target MDM activity.
[00:02:55] So basically, one of the things that we’re essentially looking for is guidance on effective countermeasures. The vendor solutions that we’re trying to do are essentially monitoring threats, mentions in social media, and the spread of MDM. And then providing flexible alerts related to emerging narratives containing harmful content around MDM.
[00:03:14] And then analysis of the origins of the threat and the spread of MDM and provide any insight on how to combat MDM. And that really largely exists through regular reporting.
[00:03:26] (I think we identified it as on Fridays that we would be getting those MDM reports.) And it’s really just an opportunity for us to have information that we can’t, you know, just access with one individual person.
[00:03:39] We’re hoping to share this information with relevant partners when they reach a threat point, including our local FBI, State Police, other stakeholders, including our Fusion Center, National Guard, county clerks, CISA, Postal Service, you know, depending on who it touches, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
[00:03:57] John Q: They say a lie can travel halfway ‘round the world while the truth is still pulling on its boots. Oregon election officials hope to be booted up and ready in time for the elections in May.
As of Nov. 14, 2023, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office has not yet signed a contract with an MDM vendor. You can search for state contracts at the state’s transparency website.