In our Jan. 2 “Top Ten Tech Issues For 2018” report, we identified this year as a critical one for governments and technology companies to work together to safeguard electoral processes. Today we are heeding our own call to action by announcing the launch of Microsoft’s Defending Democracy Program. The Defending Democracy Program will work with all stakeholders in democratic countries globally to:
- Protect campaigns from hacking through increased cyber resilience measures, enhanced account monitoring and incident response capabilities;
- Increase political advertising transparency online by supporting relevant legislative proposals such as the Honest Ads Act and adopting additional self-regulatory measures across our platforms;
- Explore technological solutions to preserve and protect electoral processes and engage with federal, state and local officials to identify and remediate cyber threats; and
- Defend against disinformation campaigns in partnership with leading academic institutions and think tanks dedicated to countering state-sponsored computational propaganda and junk news.
Threats to our democratic processes from cyber-enabled interference have become a critical concern. We’ve seen attempts by nation-states to target and exploit key building blocks of our democratic system including voting systems and the technology infrastructure of political campaigns. We have also endured the manipulation of social media platforms to sow misinformation.
Addressing this threat to democracy will require significant new efforts by governments, technology companies – both individually and in partnership – as well as academia and civil society.
An important early focus of our new effort will be the November 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. for which we are piloting new cross-industry protections, as well as the U.S. presidential elections in 2020. The scope of our new program is global, however, as we scale our efforts to engage around the world with other democratic countries in protecting their institutions and processes in the years to come. Expect to hear more from us on what we’re doing, both on our own and in partnership with governments and our industry colleagues, to put our cybersecurity expertise to work for the defense of democracy.