Good at spotting misleading posts online? The state of Connecticut has a new job for you: election “misinformation” analyst. Critics are blasting the high price tag, but a former CIA analyst says it’s money well-spent.
On social media, it’s easy to find rumors and outright lies. Now, Connecticut is fighting back.
“We have eyes and ears now that are able to help protect Connecticut elections,” said Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates.
Bates’ office is hiring a new elections information security analyst to “identify dis- and misinformation related to Connecticut election administration in real time.” In 2020, an outside consultant caught false conspiracy theories before they spread.
“We were able to identify a couple of instances in 2020 where somebody said, ‘Oh, a bunch of ballots turned over in a tractor-trailer truck on I-91,” said Bates. “It wasn’t true.”
But the new position comes with a hefty salary: $150,000 a year. It’s part of a larger $2 million effort to combat bad information before the November election.
“It’s pretty amazing that we’re going to pay somebody $150,000 to troll the internet,” said state Rep. Vin Candelora (R-North Branford), the Connecticut House minority leader.
Candelora also believes state government shouldn’t decide what constitutes “misinformation.”
“To the extent we are doing this, we should be putting it in sort of a nonpartisan office, such as state ethics or Elections Enforcement Commission,” he said.
Dominic Rapini, the endorsed Republican candidate for secretary of the state says he would eliminate the position.
The new analyst will also monitor the “dark web” and fringe political sites like 4chan and 8chan, both tied to the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot.
One national expert thinks Connecticut is making a smart investment. Cindy Otis wrote “True or False: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News.” She says states are easy targets for malicious actors online.
“Targeting local elections, state elections, is sort of one way that malicious actors might try to increase that distrust of the voting population,” she said. “And then they end up migrating those narratives over to more mainstream platforms.”
On the federal level, the Department of Homeland Security recently launched a Disinformation Governance Board to “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security.” But DHS paused the effort after just three weeks.
Learn more about this new position this weekend on “Connecticut Power and Politics.”