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David W. Schropfer 00:00:03

Everybody welcome to the webinar. This is David Schropfer. I’m the executive Vice President of DomainSkate, and this is the state of the 2024 election online political donations in an era of fraud, mistrust, and scams. Thanks. Everybody for joining. I’m going to turn it over to David Mitnick, the CEO of DomainSkate.


David Mitnick00:00:22

Thanks, David, and we have with us today Derek Tisler, counsel for elections and government at the Brennan Center for justice at Nyu Law school.

And here’s a little bit about the Brennan center. I think it’s it’s reputation name. Speak for itself, Derek. Thank you so much for joining us today.


Derek Tisler00:00:46

Thanks so much for having me on David. And yeah, just you know, won’t read this whole description. But for those who don’t know. The Brennan Center. We are a nonpartisan law and policy Institute. We are dedicated to protecting the rule of law and the values of constitutional democracy.

And just as a quick introduction to myself, I’m Derek Tisler. I’m counsel with the elections and government program at the Brennan Center and I work on issues related to election security election administration but also the the inter information environment surrounding elections. And that will be of a big focus of the Brennan center this year. About, how do we build trust in our democratic system?


David Mitnick00:01:29

Awesome, awesome. And that’s going to be a big focus for us today. As we talk about some of these issues that are coming up that people are experiencing in their everyday lives and seeing happen

online election scams. The AI effect something everybody’s talking about in every almost every corner of life. And the the influence on elections is something that we definitely need to discuss.

What can be done about it from a government perspective and also from you know how campaigns and donors should think about it. So

so this is our broad agenda today, and we’ll go to the next slide.

And so you know, within that framework? You know, Derek.

there’s there are a few trends, and we’re going to discuss these all individually and in some detail. Here.

The first is the political fundraising and spending is increasing. More individual donors are participating. I think

that’s something that we all know. I don’t know if that’s ever since Howard Dean started doing online fundraising that. I can remember back in the day when it seems like it was just sort of a novel thing.

and you know, it’s really kind of taken off

from there. It’s become a very important part, I think, for both parties in terms of their fundraising activities.

We’ll talk a little bit about how tactics are growing more aggressive. And

and you know how the political fundraising the landscape is becoming more opportunistic

and what people are seeing. I think we all experience it in our inboxes and our texts. So we’ll jump into that

so let’s jump to the next slide.

And so this is interesting. More people are giving money to campaigns than ever before, and I see Derek here in terms of these statistics.

comparing 2,016 to 2020. Can you provide a little bit of color around that.


Derek Tisler00:03:58

Yeah, so th, this graph is showing. You know, I I circled the the portion there which is small individual donations. And we’re seeing that grow. This is comparing 2016 to 2020. That’s just a snapshot of a longer timeline. This will grow every single presidential election. I think a lot of people would expect that this grows once again in 2024

and there’s a couple of different trends that are going into that one is just. People are more politically engaged. And there are more people who are engaged. We see this across a number of areas, you know, 2020 had historic turnout

some of the highest turnout that we’ve ever seen in a Presidential election. We see that here, in terms of the number of people who are in some ways taking a step further. They’re not just casting a vote for an individual, but they’re contributing to that campaign, or they’re participating in that campaign. Some way people are engaged.

They are passionate, and a lot of this, I think, is being fed by our our increased polarization. There’s a bit of an outrage machine that really fuels these small individual donations. Right? I’m online.

I see something. I get angry. My credit card is already saved. I’m clicking the box and donating right? And this is this is the trend that we’re seeing. This online ecosystem is making it easier than ever to donate, and people feel like they have to take that step

to further all the various things that they care about in the political space.


David Mitnick00:05:32

That’s super interesting. I wanted to ask you about these. I was really surprised looking at comparing 2,016 to 2,020 about the pack numbers from 9.1 6% to 4.2 2 in 2,020,

and I would have actually thought it would have been reversed. I would have thought that packs, because there’s seem to be so many nowadays. Is that something that you that you think is, going to be a continuing trend? Or was it an aberration, or, you know.

are packs having a smaller role in this type of fundraising?


Derek Tisler00:06:07

Yeah, it’s not necessarily that packs are having a smaller role. They’re still raising an incredible amount of money, spending an incredible amount of money. One of the biggest trends is that more money is being filtered through these dark money organizations, right? Especially 501 c. Fours instead of Pax.

Which you know. This, this data here comes from open secrets is an organization that tracks a lot of campaign fundraising and spending.

It’s difficult to track these dark money organizations. So they’re not necessarily going to show up on these sort of graphs. But that might be part of what is happening here.


David Mitnick00:06:46

Gotcha. Alright. So when you say so.

we we we shouldn’t look at this and say that Pax have less of a role right now they they actually probably have more of a role. But there’s they’re kind of morphing into something that’s a little that’s that’s tougher to track in terms of traditional packs.


Derek Tisler00:07:01

Yeah, I think that is certainly part of the trend here. It’s being filtered through other ways. You know the other thing that I I think, really jumps out when you’re comparing these 2 graphs. Is that increase in self funded candidates? That is, that is definitely a trend that we’ve been seeing as well. I think in some ways trump has had a bit of an influence over that. There are a lot of candidates who see themselves in their image.

and they’re using some of the same talking points that he had back in 2,016, where he was essentially saying, I’m wealthy, and I’m not dependent on donors. I think there have been a lot of people who have been trying to.

I get a similar message across to donors and usually you know, national organizations who are recruiting Senate candidates, Congressional candidates are more than happy to have self funded candidates in the space, because it allows them to free up their resources and other ways.


David Mitnick00:07:55

Sure. And it’s self that’s super interesting. And it’s self funding where the candidate themselves are writing the check for the entire

campaign. Or is it a percentage? Or

I know, you know we had. in New York we had Bloomberg for a long time as Mayor. I don’t think he took a dime from anybody, but he didn’t need to. So is is that what that indicates?


Derek Tisler00:08:20

Yeah. So self funding here just means that the candidate gave money to their own campaign. Just from looking at these graphs, you know we can’t tell how much of that self funding covered the cost of the campaign. My advice to voters, if you hear somebody say they’re completely self funded bring some skepticism to that. Usually there are still, you know, maybe independent organizations supporting that campaign. They are still raising money. They just don’t like to talk about that quite as much.

And I I think typically wealthy individuals don’t like to give away their money if they don’t.


David Mitnick00:08:58

Does make sense.


David W. Schropfer00:08:59

How they got that way.


David Mitnick00:09:01

So let’s let’s jump to the next slide.

So this is. This is super interesting about fundraising. Tactics are getting more aggressive, and I’ll let you discuss some of this, and then I have a couple a couple of questions. But I I think we we’re all seeing this. So

if you could talk a little bit about this, that’d be great.


Derek Tisler00:09:25

Yeah, I think this is something that we’re all seeing. Anybody who has contributed to a campaign signed up for a mailing list

somehow had their information sold to a campaign mailing list. Right? We’re being flooded with emails and text messages and social media campaigns, and whatever it may be, and the the tone in the format of that is becoming more aggressive, more alarming.

More exclamation marks more the entire world depends on you giving me $30 type of tone to it. You know, I outlined a few things on this slide of some of the things that we’re seeing we’re seeing very emotional appeals.

alarming rhetoric threats of lost privileges. You know you were one of ex candidates, favorite supporters, but no longer. If you turn your back on us right promises of exclusive benefits

you get put on some sort of special list. Maybe you’re the first one to find out about certain things right false promises of matches. We’ve seen a lot. I think this is coming up a lot. Donate now, and you’ll your contribution will be 5 times that right?

There’s often not any sort of match that’s actually behind this. It’s just rhetoric that’s used to get people. This is, you know, something that’s common in the charitable space where you may actually have a donor who say, Oh, if people contributed to that, I will match whatever they contribute up to a certain amount that doesn’t really happen in the political fundraising space, in part, because contribution limits really would limit even the possibility of that

another one I put on, there is pre checked recurring donation boxes. This is a tactic that has become much more aggressive since 2,020. There’s an example in the in the yellow box there, where I circled some very fine print.

But essentially you would go onto this page you would go to make a donation, and there’s a couple of boxes that are already checked for you, and unless you unchecked them your donation becomes a recurring donation. We’re going to draw out that same amount every week, every month, whatever it may be. And this is, I mean, this is obviously very misleading and deceptive practice. And this was a a huge controversy controversy. It continues to be

a legal practice, but that being said there have been a lot of campaigns or other fundraising entities who have had to issue a lot of refunds to pretty angry customers who felt duped out of their money here.

And and I, I think what we’re seeing, you know, across all of these is

a lot of tone and tactics that we may have associated with scams in the past are now being sort of co-opted by legitimate entities. And it is it’s creating a new baseline, and it’s making it a lot harder for voters to tell these things apart, because they’re they’re now sort of just used to these predatory practices.


David Mitnick00:12:26

Yeah, yeah, that’s super interesting. Actually, if we could just click back for just 1 s.

so I think there was.

there was a. I don’t remember the name of the comedian, but

she read all of the emails that she was getting from the Dnc.

The the terms were, we’re crying, we’re begging.

were pleading. We can’t believe you did this. I mean, it was like everything. It was actually very funny, and and like you said everything was very alarming, very emotional.

how much responsibility, I mean.

yeah, how much responsibility do the campaigns have for this? Or are they just part of like of a machine that is.

that is going on, I mean, how how do we kind of get away from this.


Derek Tisler00:13:17

Yeah, it. I think it varies a bit. You know, there are always particularly when we’re talking about bigger campaigns for President for Senate. There are usually multiple entities that are in some ways supporting that campaign, advancing that cost forward. And they’re and they’re run by people who,

you know they see it as their job to raise money. What? Whatever tactics work. And it is working that we’re raising incredible sums through these tactics.

but it it I think it is certainly hard to get away from, especially if you feel like you’re in this space, and there’s a constant way to kind of affirm your actions by saying the other side is doing it right. If they’re doing it, we gotta do it. We gotta match that energy. We gotta match those tactics. We gotta match that aggression

and and there may be, you know, a slice of

people working for these campaigns again in a highly polarized environment that at least to some extent they believe this rhetoric right? They. They are working for these campaigns because they’re deeply passionate about it. The people who are supporting these campaigns are incredibly passionate about issues and how it may impact them.

And so they’re buying into it a little bit right? Maybe they really do believe that look I need to chip in. Otherwise this this right that I care about may go away, or whatever it may be. My, my, you know, economic health may be impacted. It. It’s a difficult problem. And it feels like an an escalating arms race that’s hard to move back from.


David Mitnick00:14:49


So scam packs. There’s a lot of them now. And

as is noted in this slide, taking advantage of increased political interest and polarisation.


Very curious about about, you know.

providing you providing some color on this because I was. I was really shocked by this slide.


Derek Tisler00:15:19

Yeah, this is one where you know, going back to sort of what we were talking about in the previous slide here. It’s getting harder for voters to spot the fake right the the ecosystem is so flooded everything starts to look the same, especially when we move into

these sort of independent super packs, right? They all have

big names of Americans for better jobs and right like nobody knows what these entities are necessarily, and that and that creates opportunity. It creates opportunity for these scam packs which are essentially entities who are masquerading as legitimate political action committees. They claim together money for a candidate or for a cause.

and then they keep that money for themselves rather than giving it forward. And one of the things of how these entities can be detected is when they report

funding they often reported as or report expenditures. They often report it as vague things like consulting or fundraising. And that’s what this is. Another great graphic from open secrets. That’s sort of what they’re looking at here. It’s not to say that all these examples necessarily are scam packs, but they’re all reporting an incredible amount of their spending on fundraising. Most of these are 80% plus

and again, you sort of see law enforcement for a safer America American coalition for crisis relief right in their name. You cannot tell these apart from legitimate entities, and of course they’re latching on the causes that people care about law enforcement veterans.


disabled children is one of them right? And and so you see where

people are taking advantage of this historic political participation and interest.

And they’re taking advantage of this increased passion and polarization

and they’re able to just sort of swoop in and and collect money as just

one thing in the flood of information that voters are going to receive this year, and oftentimes they can do so pretty well undetected. Occasionally, you know, these will venture into the space of being a criminal operation. We have seen charges brought against some of these organizations, but because the campaign finance space has been so deregulated

over the last 20 years. There’s not a lot of people who are necessarily paying attention, or we’ll get to it until it’s much too late.


David Mitnick00:17:53

Understood. Understood. Wow.

wow, yeah, I was. That’s it’s shocking

87%. I think it was on one of them that right there. Sorry on fundraising 92%. And then the amounts of money that are being raised. And

yeah, yeah, it’s it’s super interesting to go to the next one.

disinformation and malign influence campaigns. So if you could see if you could talk a little bit about what you’re kind of seeing on the on the ground. As far as this goes.


Derek Tisler00:18:32

In terms of, you know, bad actors. Taking advantage of this information ecosystem we’ve been talking about. You know, we we’ve spent some time on

scams that are primarily motivated by profit.

Right? But that’s not going to be the only motivation that we’re going to see in 2024. We’re also going to see scams that are motivated by political influence in some way. Right? They’re trying to influence voters. They’re trying to help campaign our candidates win campaigns, or they’re just trying to create distrust and the election system.

And this last one in particular. This year we’re likely to see more threat actors in the election information space that include foreign adversaries. This became a huge issue in 2,016, obviously with

Russian influence campaigns. We expect Russian adversaries to. In some ways be involved in the election process again this year. Federal intelligence agencies have also warned about Iran and China and other actors getting involved in the election information space in America. And the biggest reason why is there’s

there’s a heightened interest in getting involved given some of the global wars and crises that are happening right now, there are a lot of adversaries who have a strong interest in the outcome of the American election this year. And so again, they’re seizing on political polarization. They’re seizing on this diluted and flooded information environment. And they’re seizing on declining confidence in the Us. Election system.

And as just one specific example, this was from 2020 on the slide where the FBI and the Federal Cyber and Security Agency. They warn that foreign adversaries may use spoofed election websites to spread disinformation about elections, and they specifically referenced typo squatting practices with ties to foreign entities. And I believe, David, you have a slide to explain sort of what typo squatting is.


David Mitnick00:20:44

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s you know, we typo squatting is something that we see all the time. It’s basically a tactic that scammers use to trick users into going to sites that are that look like the legitimate sites. And here we’re looking at Maricopa County. We did a really really quick search in the DomainSkate system where we use the terms Maricopa and vote together. And we got

48 results. Actually, that. That’s that’s a ton for those 2 terms.

honestly. And

you know, here, here we have some examples of how folks could use sites. You know, they registered domains. They might not be active at this point, but in a couple of months they could be. So these things are. These domains are registered. They’ve all got little variations on whether it’s a, you know, a misspelling maricopa. It could be

what we call fat fingers. It could be adding, you know, making things plural, anything that sort of makes it, you know, that’s not too far from the real name, and that gives voters confidence gives users confidence that they’re going to the right spot. And we were actually really shocked by this, you know, to have the words Maritoba, and vote.


you know, in this in in the same.

you know, either phrasing or you know, domain is is pretty shocking. So so there seems like there’s a lot of focus already on some of these important counties by by folks that are trying to mislead people.


Derek Tisler00:22:25

Yeah. And I mean this. So sort of shows a a completely separate danger that we may see in 2024 that we’ve seen in in previous elections. It’s not just

you know, spoofing campaigns and causes, and maybe trying to trick voters who are looking up election information right? They may be trying to go to the you know Maricopa County website, for example, to say, how can I cast my ballot this year? Where is my polling place

or maybe they’re trying to look at election results whatever it may be. And th, these is, this is where we’re seeing another opportunity for these malign influence campaigns who aren’t trying to get any sort of profit. You know you’re not. You’re not turning over your credit card information to your local election office, right? But they’re trying to use this for some sort of political gain or increasing distrust.


David Mitnick00:23:20

Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that’s a really good point. And I think the other thing is this is not particularly technical.

you know, obviously registering a domain is not technical. Putting up a website nowadays is really not technical, and you know, confusing folks. You don’t have to be a.

It doesn’t have to be something, you know, like like a hacker, you know, that we sort of think of, you know, having to get around firewalls and doing all sorts of things like that. This is out there. This is accessible and relatively

easy to do.

So. I, you know we sort of call it the the. It’s kind of like the back door for a lot of in terms of in terms of confusing people because it doesn’t. It’s not about hacking a site that is, you know, got a got a fortress of firewalls around it. It’s it’s it’s about creating something that just confuses people, and and there’s no other intention.

so we can move on to the next one

to the next slide. Thank you. Social media!

Increasingly difficult to distinguish sources of political information. I think

one in 5 adults say they’re getting their political news primarily through social media. I actually thought it might be even more than that

particularly for the younger generation, as I watch my kids and how they’re getting a lot of their information. Can you talk about the importance of social media, and where it’s going.


Derek Tisler00:24:54

Yeah, you know, for one I think

one and 5 saying they primarily get their news from social media certainly understates the number of people who secondarily get their news from social media, or in other ways, you know, have a presence on social media where they are getting news. So I certainly think the the challenge is much greater than that. But it’s it’s really one additional way in which.

you know, in addition to the other trends that we’ve been discussing. It is harder to navigate the political and information environment than it ever has been before. And that’s because social media has replaced a lot of our traditional gatekeepers of information. It has replaced in some ways, you know, trusted media institutions. It has

replaced, maybe even campaign sources themselves, who, you know, campaigns will obviously lie about things but it is at least coming from a campaign or a candidate. Right? We know that it’s it’s the actual person.

But when you’re on social media, there’s not necessarily the same expectation of, you know, if I’m clicking through a a trustworthy news article. And they reference a campaign’s website. If I click that hyperlink, I’m going to be taken to the right website, right? And I can kind of trust that even when I’m doing a Google search, if I want to donate to a certain campaign and I search that candidate campaign, the top result is most likely going to be that candidates actual website, right

when we’re on social media. And we’re just scrolling through this barrage of again, often alarming rhetoric, maybe misinformation. And then just hyperlinks tucked in all over the place, and we’re just clicking on whatever’s there, and we kind of have no idea where that’s going to take us afterwards. And so this

growth and social media as a gatekeeper, as the first step that people use to reach other destinations on the Internet. It has just made it a lot easier for people to to take advantage of people who, again, are navigating a complicated space where everything is sort of starting to look similar to one another.

And and they kind of just have no idea where the destination is. And I think we’re seeing, even as people sort of report, more skepticism and declining trust, and the information that they see online.

their engagement is as high as it’s ever been right? So that that skepticism isn’t turning them away from the Internet. They’re still engaging. They’re just maybe more skeptical of what they’re seeing. But if they’re still engaging. That danger is is is definitely going to be there.


David Mitnick00:27:38

That’s so. So one question I have. I was actually kind of shocked at print to being a 3%. Maybe it’s just because I’m a

Gen. X. And I think about myself reading the newspaper on the train and doing all the things that I

that a lot most people don’t do, but I still do.

are some of those sources sort of morphing now into

you know the print sources, I mean. I think I think that

are they having to find other ways to engage with with folks? Because

I mean 3%. I was shocked.


That’s I mean, because I guess

people aren’t, you know, reading as much as they as they used to.


Derek Tisler00:28:23

Yeah, I I think that’s absolutely right. You know, I I think it has. The interesting thing is, it’s been a 2 way street, right? We’ve obviously seen our traditional print sources move online. Primarily, some of them have discontinued their print services altogether. Some continue to publish both types of information. But we’ve actually seen the other way as well where new entrants

have gone into the the print ecosystem, and a lot of them are

highly partisan media sources who are sort of masquerading as a traditional media source. Right? And they’re taking advantage of, you know. It may be a small number of people but it might be a

group of people who let’s their guard down a little bit when they’re reading print materials right? Maybe they sort of see print as a sign of trustworthiness in a way that they don’t see the same thing with an online blog or something like that, because they they have been reading print for so long. And so it’s another

area in this broader trend where the this line between, you know, not necessarily real and fake, but certainly sources with a heavy agenda versus more objective sources. This line is just getting thinner and thinner until it’s going to vanish altogether. And it’s people are always looking for new

environments that they can enter new ways that they can take advantage of people’s, you know, trustworthiness or difficulty navigating information.


David Mitnick00:30:00


Ai, wow! I feel like we could probably spend a lot of time and maybe even definitely a separate whole discussion.

But I’m curious. 2024, I

at least from my view. It seems like it’s going to be the I mean. I’m sure that there’ve been.

I know there have been fake videos and things like that before. I don’t think that everybody has had access to AI tools like we have

in the past, even just few months. So if if you could talk a little bit about that.


Derek Tisler00:30:39

Yeah, this is certainly you know, a lot of experts are thinking of 2024 as really the first AI election. It’s the. It’s the confluence of the growing availability and effectiveness of AI tools meeting. A incredibly important election year, certainly for America. Obviously, this is, you know, a presidential election. But really, globally, this is going to be one of the most active election years across the world.

I believe around 50% of of people across the world will be going to the polls to vote

for some office at at their federal or local level. It’s an incredibly high number and so when we’re looking at AI,

we’ve spent a lot of time talking on this webinar so far that the legitimate political information is becoming more suspicious, maybe a little bit lower quality. Maybe a little bit more alarming, or carrying the traits that we may have in the past associated with a scam.

and on the flip side AI means that it’s easier than ever to make the fake contact content. Look really good.

right? Anybody. Now

there’s a low barrier of entry to create high quality content on the Internet, you can create convincing text. You can create highly personalized text and images and video and audio, whatever it may be. And

there’s a real risk that this is going to lead to more scam websites in the political space because of the lower cost of entry. Because you can do a more convincing job, and because you can make more personalized appeals. So if we go back to you know that example that you showed of Maricopa County, where people are kind of just sitting on these domains do something with them.

The way that we see it is, it becomes much easier to do something with it right if you purchase that domain, and then you just flood it with AI generated content. You’re going to have a great looking website, and and almost no time, and at no cost.


David Mitnick00:32:49

Yeah, yeah, it’s

It’s pretty amazing. I am floored by the technology.

The effects are going to reverberate throughout every I mean, we’re already seeing it. I can’t even imagine what’s going to.

you know, with with with elections. It’s it’s

It’s really daunting. It’s pretty amazing if we go to the next slide.

there’s you set some examples here about what’s already happening, or what’s already happened. Can you talk a little bit about the effects that we’ve seen.


Derek Tisler00:33:33

Yeah. So as I mentioned, you know. It’s not just American elections. This year, we are going to have a year of of highly important elections across the world. And it sort of means that people in America are are sitting and watching. We’re watching what happens in other countries, because we know

those same trends are going to show up in America. And in some cases they’re going to create a roadmap of what is possible before the American election, which is, of course, at the end of the year. So we’re going to see a lot more instances here. We’re seeing, you know mostly things in these sort of deep fake category creating convincing images, audio videos

of often candidates right? So an example of Slovakia, of a party leader discussing how to rig an upcoming election.

the Indonesia a video of a former President claiming to support a current candidates campaign. The Bangladesh example showed an opposition lawmaker in a revealing swimsuit sort of taking advantage of very religious, deeply conservative attitudes within the country to make that opponent look less legitimate.

A very interesting example. In in Pakistan, where a former Prime Minister used AI generated speeches that replicated his voice to actually rally, support and continue to campaign for allies while that individual was in jail. I think it’s kind of an example of

you know. You could kind of see ways in which AI could be pro democracy as well. So I I think that’s a really fascinating example to discuss. But you know, we’re we’re we’re certainly seeing this already. And this is just one sliver of the way in which AI tools can be used in the election space.


David Mitnick00:35:30

And can you? So so that’s fascinating. Can you talk about one of these in terms of like? So so what happened

mean? What was the effect? Did it? Did it sway an election? Did it? Did it influence? And and how? How did the

the folks dealing with the let’s say the the Deepfake in Bangladesh or Indonesia. How did they

deal with that? I mean, I guess you’re playing defense at that point.


Derek Tisler00:35:53

Yeah, I think that’s right. You know I I can’t speak too much of the details of the of these incidents. And I I don’t, wanna, you know, get too far beyond my expertise in American elections. But I think that is in general. That’s something that we’re still trying to figure out, and that people are having to test in real time of like.

how do you respond to these things? Right just coming out and saying.

that’s fake.

you know. Now, all that we have is 2 video clips of a candidate purporting to say something right? It’s creating a little bit of like a he said. He said in real time, and then there’s also an another worry that experts are a are having right now is the increasing

liars dividend problem, which is essentially, you know, when when everything is fake and everybody is saying that everything’s fake, it creates more opportunity for for just liars in the political space. Right? If a video comes out of a candidate where they said something.

Maybe that is deeply problematic to their campaign 4 years ago.

W. It’s not surprising at all that we’re going to see candidates just come out and say, that’s a deep fake that I never said that


David Mitnick00:37:05



Derek Tisler00:37:06

And so that’s a problem that we’re going to have to deal with as well. And it’s something that I think everybody is trying to figure out in real time, like what are the most effective ways to

reach the same number of people that these deep fakes did? And how do you sort of

prove that. You know this. This isn’t real we all know that that more, you know, tantalizing things are likely to have a wider reach than.


David Mitnick00:37:31



Derek Tisler00:37:32

Then the person who’s just saying No, actually check out the metadata this. This isn’t this didn’t actually happen.


David Mitnick00:37:41

Super interesting, super interesting. Well, let’s jump to the to the next.

you know.

Here you’re noting Federal government social media companies are taking a step back.


Derek Tisler00:37:53



David Mitnick00:37:53

At a time

when it seems like

by all indications!

you know it’s this kind of hands. Off approach is is coming in

in front of a tidal wave. You know a real avalanche of

of disinformation. Can can you talk about that?


Derek Tisler00:38:16

Yeah, this is another way in which 2024 is going to be different, certainly than 2020. We think the the eyes on the political information space are going to be just much less present.

And a couple of things have happened that that have led to that. So one is. There was a a recent lawsuit. Murphy B, Missouri is the name of it. Where, essentially, there was a challenge to the practice of

Federal officials communicating with social media companies and encouraging them to take down false information right? And a lot of it centered on information about the COVID-19 pandemic the effectiveness of vaccines. That sort of thing but then there were also examples in the election space

of people spreading false information about the 2020 election outcomes conspiracy theories around rig voting equipment, whatever it may be. There was a practice of

essentially Federal officials would receive an alert from State and local election officials of saying, We’ve seen this information out here. This is a lie. We’re really concerned about the impact that this is going to have on people’s faith in the election, and these Federal officials would then flag it for social media companies. Not in a you have to take this down. But in a you know, this violates your own policies.

and this is false information.

So anyway, these Federal officials were sued for this practice with people alleging that they were essentially coercing social media companies and they were saying that that was restricting the free speech of the users on those social media platforms. This case was just heard in the Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago, actually after an injunction had come down that essentially prohibited all Federal

officials from communicating with social media companies in any way. They were completely cut off from any communication. This was heard at the Supreme Court. We’re awaiting a decision in this case that may come down anytime in the next couple of months.

Early reports seem to be that they’re going to narrow that a little bit, or perhaps overturn it. But the point is, there’s going to be a bit of a lasting, chilling effect on Federal officials where they’re going to be extremely cautious about in any way monitoring false information online.

And at the same time, you know, in a very related set of circumstances. Many social media companies have

kind of said that they are going to take a hands off approach when it comes to anything politically related. They’re not going to take down information. They may not rebut false information on platforms they have cut back on a lot of the staff resources that was dedicated to this effort in 2,020. You know, I think

Twitter or X is probably the most prominent example of this. When Elon Musk took took over, he sort of did so, vowing to take a complete hands off approach when it comes to political information. And so

I think what all this means is that, there’s just not going to be a lot of people necessarily looking out for false information in this space, or certainly wanting to put resources into rebutting this information.


David Mitnick00:41:42



So one of the questions here that we have you know what

what to do for campaigns and donors. This is something that we kind of deal with. One of the things that we you know we talk about.

Most of our clients are brand owners, and the people that we work with are brand owners.

But, as you know, as more and more as we’re monitoring, you know, campaigns and campaign names and domains and all the things that we were talking about earlier with Maricopa County and going to the correct site and making sure that you’re you know, if you’re looking up your local election office, finding it

is that you know, campaigns themselves really need to be on this. I think one of the points that you just illustrated is that social media companies are doing to be doing less. There’s been a chilling effect on the Government’s ability to actually come in and and do something about


And so campaigns from our perspective are going to have

a little bit more responsibility certainly within.

when it comes to domain name

and dealing with a lot of the misinformation and fake sites and things like that.

And if we go to the next slide

we just had a couple. We put out a couple of things here. I’d be interested in your take on. This.

Derek is a.

you know, for for actual donors, some some takeaways. You know, one of the things that we.

you know tell tell users all the time is make sure that you type something you type a domain name independently into the browser

in this case, because we’re talking about elections looking, which is a vetted registry.

And I’m curious about how you guys think and.


Derek Tisler00:43:44


this has been one of the most important protections that we’ve been recommending to election officials. You know, the people who actually run elections.

To adopt is is migrating to campaign the Federal agency that runs it now has actually made that free for election officials. So there has been a big uptake in this. I think at this point every State election offices office has campaign. It’s a little bit more spotty when you get down to local election offices, some still use a dotcom

org dot boat something like that. So you know you, you can’t necessarily assume that just because it, it is a fake website.

But if you, you can feel really confident that that is a legitimate website, right? The information on there telling you this is how you vote. This is what’s on your ballot. This is where you’re polling places. You can trust that information. So we’re definitely encouraging uptake of this among election officials, and we’re trying to encourage voters to always be looking for that in your in your search bar.





David Mitnick00:44:56

And so I think we’re we’re at to the to the Q. And A. Section here.


David. I don’t know if there’s been any questions that have kind of come in from from our.




David W. Schropfer00:45:10

Yes, we have.

So here’s the first one. Can artificial intelligence be controlled or regulated to prevent election interference.


Derek Tisler00:45:21

This is a great question that a lot of people are thinking about this year.

I think when we consider the range of possible regulations. There are quite a number of options on the table where we’re seeing some of the earliest movement is a little bit more of disclaimers watermarking practices, the type of thing that basically says, you know, if you’re a campaign and you produce content using artificial intelligence.

you have to tell people that it was produced with artificial intelligence, or you need certain features in it that would identify that product as artificial intelligence generated right. So this is where we’re seeing some of the earliest movement in America with some States, either considering or passing disclaimer or watermark laws.

in terms of, you know, going beyond that step. This is where the American legal system is is very unique. Right? Certainly in compares to the European Union, and some of the efforts that they’ve taken where there are much more options to regulate the political information space, the political spending space in America with our constitutional limitations, our protections around free speech.

I think there’s still a lot more uncertainty about what sort of regulations would be effective. So I expect some early efforts here in 2024 as people sort of rush ahead to say, what can we do now? Before the 2024 election, followed by much more significant conversations around

bigger efforts in the near future.


David W. Schropfer00:47:07

Gotcha and the second question actually relates very closely to the first. Which level of government is positioned to fix this local State or Federal. We talked about a lot of a lot of different problems. So I’m not exactly sure which one that we’ve addressed. But but

question still remains. Which which level of government do you think is best positioned.


Derek Tisler00:47:29

Yeah, certainly, depending on the the problems that we’re discussing. There’s there’s a lot of space for State and Federal actors on this.


Federal attempts to regulate again the campaign finance space

have been very limited in the past couple of decades. We have not seen a lot of movement we’ve seen in many ways, our regulations being sort of way behind our political reality. In many cases they don’t. They don’t reflect the migration to the Internet. But frankly, in terms of using online services for fundraising more spending on digital ads.

So you know, I I think it is certainly appropriate for the Federal Government to intervene in this space and help mitigate against some of these risks that we see but I I think in reality, States will be taking the lead in this area.


David W. Schropfer00:48:31

Great. Thank you for that. We are over time for being overtime. But

I’d like to squeeze in a couple more because we got some really good ones here. This next one. Is it safer to donate to a pack, or directly to a campaign?


Derek Tisler00:48:48

I don’t think there is a difference in safety between these things. I I think. Certainly, if you’re looking at a a candidate campaign or a pack that is run by a candidate. Then you know that your money is going to that candidate and essentially being spent the way that that candidate and their campaign intends for it to be spent

as opposed to S. Sending to a super pack an independent expenditure committee. By law. These 2 entities cannot coordinate. Super packs cannot coordinate with

Candidates. We know in reality that they get around these rules all the time. These are essentially lines that are all the way on the ground, and they’re pretty easy to to step over. But in theory at least that, money is going to something that is completely separate from the candidate and cannot necessarily be controlled by the candidate. So a lot of it is, just where do you want your dollars to be spent.

But in terms of safety. I don’t think there is a a safety concern between these 2 things as long as they’re both legitimate entities.


David W. Schropfer00:49:56

Okay, great. And I think this very last question, might be for David. Can I trust the first result in a Google search.


David Mitnick00:50:10

I guess

the the the I’m I’m going to say no, not because you can’t trust.

You know Google does a very good job on the organic side of search usually. You know, have

kind of depends, I guess, too. But

a lot of times, you know, we’ve seen, at least with brands where there’d be fake brand ads that are sponsored. You know that that are part of the Google ads

that are paid for, and that they’re

as a result, they get

first billing and are right at the top of the search results.

Those can be very, very confusing to people when they’re dealing with brands. I imagine the same thing when we’re talking about campaigns. If there was a Google result for a campaign, and it wasn’t the link to the actual campaign, and they were paying to be

put up at the top. That could be very problematic.

so that that would something definitely be to

definitely that users to watch, watch out for.


David W. Schropfer00:51:11

So the Scammers can advertise on Google and Google doesn’t mind.


David Mitnick00:51:15

I’m not sure if it’s that Google doesn’t mind, or if that Google sometimes

doesn’t vet them enough

in order to make sure that certainly we see it with brands. It’d be very interesting to test that for campaigns.

But we definitely see situations where brands and competitors buy the others names so that they can be. They can go right up to the top of the search results and be there. Now. There is a little word that’s a sponsored there. But that caveat a lot of times is very small, very hard to read, and

people click on the first thing that they’ll see, thinking that you know that they can trust the source. So

I imagine the same thing would happen for campaigns.


Derek Tisler00:51:58

Yeah, certainly. The practice of, you know rivals purchasing their their opponents. Campaign. We see this all the time.


David W. Schropfer00:52:06



Derek Tisler00:52:06

You know, they’re usually not trying to pull a fast one on voters. It’s a little bit more of getting voters to go to this domain. And then there’s a bunch of, you know, negative or embarrassing information about their opponent. But you know that that is a very common practice in the political space, as well.


David W. Schropfer00:52:22


Alright, gentlemen, thanks so much for your time. I think we are more than out of time. We’re almost.


David Mitnick00:52:28



David W. Schropfer00:52:29

But this has been a fascinating conversation, Derek, I can’t thank you enough for joining.


David Mitnick00:52:33

Yeah, thank you. Derek, really appreciate it.


Derek Tisler00:52:35

Of course, thanks for having me on.


David Mitnick00:52:39

Thanks, everybody.


David W. Schropfer00:52:40

Thanks. Everyone.