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Misinformation has pushed American democracy to the brink, former CISA chief says

Erosion in confidence in democracy could be "potentially catastrophic," Chris Krebs says.

Bree Fowler Senior Writer
Bree Fowler writes about cybersecurity and digital privacy. Before joining CNET she reported for The Associated Press and Consumer Reports. A Michigan native, she's a long-suffering Detroit sports fan, world traveler, two star marathoner and champion baker of over-the-top birthday cakes and all-things sourdough.
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Bree Fowler
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Trust in US elections has been hammered by misinformation.

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Misinformation and propaganda continue to erode a disastrous amount of the public's confidence in the American electoral system, says Chris Krebs, former director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

"We're at a potentially catastrophic moment right now in terms of American democracy," Krebs said Monday during a panel discussion at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California. 

He noted that in addition to facing misinformation threats from countries including Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, the US has seen the Republican Party "move away from the last 250 years of how we've elected people."

Krebs, who oversaw election security during the 2020 presidential election and was fired from his post by President Donald Trump in November, now runs a consultancy with former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos. He also serves on an Aspen Institute commission, formed to study the impact of misinformation and disinformation in the US.

At CISA, Krebs ran a government website debunking false claims of election fraud. His firing received backlash from the cybersecurity community and lawmakers.

While government can't fix the misinformation problem on its own, Krebs says it needs to take the lead, put a federal agency in charge, and keep social media platforms and others accountable when need be.  

Krebs was joined on Monday's panel by Rashad Robinson, president of the racial equity advocacy group Color of Change, and Kathryn Murdoch, co-founder and president of the Quadrivium Foundation. Both Robinson and Murdoch also serve on the Aspen Institute's commission, which is slated to release its recommendations for combating misinformation next month.