Campaign Verification: A Tool to Prevent Spoofing and Preserve Trust in Elections
with Anna Quint of Campaign Verify
In 2022, consumers filed nearly 10,000 fraud reports related to political text messages. Anna Quint, Executive Director of Campaign Verify, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss a nonpartisan service that works to ensure U.S. political entities are not spoofed when communicating with voters.
March 31, 2023
Anderson: As we approach the 2024 election season, voters may start receiving text messages from political campaigns. This medium helps people to be more informed and civically involved, but at the same time, provides bad actors and possibly foreign governments opportunities to manipulate the information that voters use to make decisions. In fact, consumers filed almost 10,000 reports of fraud related to political text messages in fiscal year 2022. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. A non-partisan service is working to make it easier for political entities to verify their identity before messaging the public. And joining me now is Anna Quint. She is executive director of Campaign Verify. And Anna, thank you so much for being here.
Quint: Thank you. It's great to be here.
Anderson: Impersonating political candidates, spreading misinformation about a ballot initiative, it's real. It happens online. It's something you pay close attention to. What are some examples of what you've seen when it comes to this?
Quint: Absolutely. Within the texting ecosystem, we have seen examples in the past. Byron Donalds was running for Congress, and a bad actor sent misleading texts deceptively announcing his withdrawal from the campaign. We have also seen, in Kansas, a bad actor sending texts to recipients misleading them into voting for an amendment that would remove abortion protections. Over social media, it's very prevalent. We have had instances over Facebook where people have set up Facebook pages such as pretending to be Donald Trump, and raising money over the page. Or within Twitter, especially as of late, there have been a lot of impersonation disinformation problems. Recently, a Washington Post columnist reported the ease in impersonating a senator over Twitter.
Anderson: So lots of examples of this. And I want you to talk a little bit about why you do this work. It's not about partisanship, right? I mean, this is about ensuring the democratic process, isn't it?
Quint: Campaign Verify is non-partisan. We have a bi-partisan board, and we operate in that fashion. Our mission is to preserve trust in U.S. elections. We are not here to back any candidate or campaign, and we are truly a non-partisan non-profit organization.
Anderson: So, talk to us a little bit about the process itself. I mean, how does the verification process work? What are you doing with this information once you collect it?
Quint: The verification process is relatively straightforward and simple, yet it's highly secure. A campaign submits a form to Campaign Verify, which includes a published filing from the FEC or a state or local election authority. Campaign Verify then manually reviews the information, which is all done by humans. Upon approval of a submission, we then send a PIN code to an e-mail address, to a number or postal address that's listed on a published filing from these election authorities, which are verified. The campaign can then enter the PIN code into the Campaign Verify portal, and generate an authorization token. So, these authorization tokens are then used by U.S. wireless carriers to identify political senders over their texting ecosystem, and react accordingly to bad actors that may not have this verification, and are spreading disinformation.
Anderson: And how do you know your efforts are working?
Quint: We believe our efforts are working because, since Campaign Verify launched in July of 2021, we have not seen any major spoofing or misinformation issue over the channel that we are doing verification for. However, we have seen issues over other channels in text messaging, such as the toll-free network, where there have been instances of spoofing, including the issue in Kansas misleading voters into voting for an amendment that would remove abortion protections.
Anderson: So it sounds like you say this is working, but I'm wondering what you feel the future of the mission of the organization is. What do you need to do next?
Quint: We would like to expand our verification to other networks. Currently, we are doing verifications within the texting ecosystem for application-to-person 10-digit-long code messaging. So we would like to expand into other text messaging channels and to other networks outside of the texting ecosystem, such as social media networks, that may benefit from an independent, trusted third party, or other messaging apps, such as WhatsApp.
Anderson: It's a huge topic. People are going to want to know more. What's your website? Where should they look?
Quint: Our website is campaignverify.org. Within the website, you can learn more about the verification process, our background, and how to contact us for further information.
Anderson: Anna Quint with Campaign Verify. Thanks for being here.
Quint: Thank you.
Anderson: And thanks to you for watching, as well. As always, For more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.