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Tech giants and US officials meet to discuss 2020 election security

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter prepare to fight disinformation campaigns that're expected to arise in the upcoming US presidential election.

Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California

Tech giants are meeting with US officials at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to discuss election security.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Powerhouse technology companies met with US officials at Facebook's headquarters on Wednesday to work on security efforts leading up to the 2020 US presidential election. The companies attending included Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, according to Facebook. 

"Participants discussed their respective work, explored potential threats and identified further steps to improve planning and coordination," said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook's head of cybersecurity policy, in s statement. "Specifically, attendees talked about how industry and government could improve how we share information and coordinate our response to better detect and deter threats."

Officials expect nation-state attacks on the US to ramp up during the election, and they met with the tech firms to discuss how to prevent a repeat of the disinformation campaigns that blitzed social networks in 2016. The four tech companies met with officials from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

Gleicher said the social media giant "developed a comprehensive strategy" to get ahead of these threats. 

"Improving election security and countering information operations are complex challenges that no organization can solve alone," he said.

The DHS has been coordinating with state election officials on securing voting machines, while warning that disinformation campaigns are a major cause for concern even after all the votes have been cast. The FBI has been alerting Facebook when disinformation campaigns break out on the social network, leading to account takedowns in past months.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have been hit with disinformation campaigns as Russian-backed groups have taken to social media to pose as Americans and comment on divisive issues to spread political chaos. The companies were blasted by Congress members for failing to prevent these attacks, and have made efforts to be more proactive for future elections. 

Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, said in a statement that the company has invested in ways to identify foreign interference, hacking and other digital attacks.

"But technology is only part of the solution," he said. "We will continue to monitor our platforms while sharing relevant information with law enforcement and industry peers."

Microsoft has partnered with companies like NewsGuard to combat disinformation by verifying news sources, while Facebook and Twitter have pushed back against new campaigns popping up. Still, despite these efforts surrounding disinformation and the election, some campaigns continue to pass through, like ads from state-sponsored media surrounding the protests in Hong Kong

This isn't the first time these tech giants have met with US officials to discuss election security. A similar meeting took place in August 2018 to talk about security leading up to the midterms. 

"Every year is an election year on Twitter and our mission to serve the public conversation is never more critical than during these moments," a Twitter spokesman said. "We always welcome the opportunity to spend time with our peer companies and the government agencies tasked with protecting the integrity of the 2020 election. This is a joint effort in response to a shared threat, and we are committed to doing our part."

Originally published Sept. 4, 1:35 p.m. PT
Update, 4:02 p.m.: Includes statement from Facebook. 
Update, 6:37 p.m.: Includes statement from Google.