VOTE 2020: Securing Your Vote - Misinformation

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

You may not believe it, but Kansas is on the front lines of the psychological war over elections being fought during the next year. We're not talking about politicians fighting for your vote, we're talking about other countries fighting to make you hate the United States. This all makes election security a primary concern for local voters. 

"Hacking," said Sharon Durmaskin.

"My gut really kind of bristled when you said misinformation," Jenn Thompson added.

Loyal voter Dan Jacobs agreed, "Misinformation is probably one of the biggest concerns when it comes to any election."

They understand it's a battle for their trust, but those we spoke with just don't see it as being a big deal here in Kansas.

"I worry about it in major, huge metropolitan cities but not so much in Kansas," said Durmaskin

Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab disagrees. Charged with protecting your vote.. He says Kansas is already under attack.

"So there was a situation in Lawrence, where the Westboro baptists were going to protest and so on Facebook, there's an LGBTQ protest, counter protest at the same time. The LGBTQ Facebook post was created from a foreign nation," he said.

According to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, Russian operative purchased the ad for that counter protest.

There have been others, Schwab says he can't talk about yet, but he warns expect more misinformation attacks like that in the coming year.

"Pat Robert's seat is open, there's only 100 U.S. Senators. Congress is not going to allow anymore anytime soon. China is aware of every candidate running for that race. Iraq is aware.  North Korea is aware. That's what we're dealing with."

Those countries, he says, have a vested interest in sowing unrest in Kansas as much as in any other state with an open Senate seat.

"Our dollar is based on full faith and credit in the United states. Well, if i can create doubt, i create lack of faith in the credit united states therefore devaluing the dollar hurting us economically. Their goal isn't to make a joke. This isn't satire. This is to manipulate your opinion, and to raise your ire, to make you more angry, to get you to act out in ways that are un-American."

Psychologist Dr. Molly Allen says, in a lot of ways these foreign agents are succeeding simply because of how our brains work.

"Part of it's confirmation bias. I mean we have our own ideas, and then we tend to gravitate towards things that support our ideas rather than things that disagree with our ideas."

And, the more outrageous the headline, the more we're interested, increasing the speed with which certain stories spread.

"Conspiracy theories also kind of get us kind of worked up," Allen noted.

Be wary of those sensational headlines, Schwab adds. They are often from unreputable sources so check the domain names.

"Just because it says New York Times, does it say .com? or does it say .co?"

And then there are the photoshopped pictures... Like the one allegedly showing Georgia democrat Stacy Abrams supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. 

"It's a new game for 2020. So it's our job just to expose the influencers for what they are."

That's why Schwab's office is joining a nationwide project called #TrustedInfo2020. Designed keep you aware of some of the misinformation attacks as they arrive.

"They're going to be able to promote, 'hey, this as a false story,' or 'this meme has gone out and it's fabricated,' and also ways that 'hey if you see this, it is not a true news source."

Because protecting not just your vote, but your trust in the voting system is an ever changing battle.

"Don't judge your country based on opinion that was created overseas."