Big tech meets with U.S security officials to talk 2020 election

The meeting comes five months before the first 2020 votes are cast in the Democratic primary and 14 months before the November election.
Image: Facebook HQ
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials met with executives from Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft on Wednesday at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

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By Carol E. Lee and Anna Schecter

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence and federal law enforcement officials met Wednesday with top tech companies to discuss coordinating and planning for potential interference in the 2020 election, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The meeting included officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as well as executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft, these people said. The meeting is being held at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The meeting comes five months before the first 2020 votes are cast in the Democratic primary and 14 months before the November election.

The government agencies and companies are expected at 7 p.m. ET to release statements and more details about the meeting, the people familiar with it said.

DNI, FBI and DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

Facebook released a statement saying the meeting "builds on our continuing commitment to work with industry and government partners."

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“For Facebook, we’ve developed a comprehensive strategy to close previous vulnerabilities, while analyzing and getting ahead of new threats," Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said. "Improving election security and countering information operations are complex challenges that no organization can solve alone."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for Microsoft confirmed the company's participation.

A spokesperson for Twitter said in a statement that the company is now constantly vigilant for interference.

"This is a joint effort in response to a shared threat, and we are committed to doing our part," the spokesperson said.

Russia’s election interference strategy in 2016 was sweeping and included hacking Democratic emails and using social media to try to influence voters. U.S. intelligence agencies and former special counsel Robert Mueller have detailed the extent of Russia’s efforts, and tech companies have faced criticism for not doing more to prevent Russia or other foreign governments from using their platforms to influence the American elections process.

Companies, such as Facebook, have since implemented new policies to address the concerns and stepped up coordination with federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

During testimony before Congress this summer, Mueller had a grim warning about Russia’s interference in the election, saying it “deserves the attention of every American.”

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy,” Mueller said. “The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious.”

Two U.S. intelligence officials confirmed the meeting to NBC News and said the companies invited the government officials.

Ken Dilanian contributed.