Penn State
Lewis Katz Building, University Park, PA
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Election Security Seminar - Fall 2020

Course Abbreviation: 
ULWR 997
Credit Only: N Anon Gr: N

Foreign interference of the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterm elections have exposed unprecedented vulnerabilities: shortcomings to national cybersecurity policy and the failure to develop effective cyber deterrents; underregulation of social media platforms and Internet governance; how best to safeguard voter data and consumer data; and what federal oversight of election administration and voting systems may be necessary while still respecting federalism principles and state sovereignty. Multiple intelligence reports have described the interference as an influence campaign that blended covert cyber operations, and overt propaganda and misinformation operations. This seminar will explore how best to address the legal and policy challenges posed by the foreign interference in U.S. elections and vulnerabilities to election security.

A central focus of the course will be on election security challenges in the 2020 election. Students will examine the development of legal and regulatory oversight to increase election security, and the technology and reforms needed to inform future policymaking and best corporate practices. Students will engage with policy debates surrounding the impact and abuse of technological developments, and ethics-based technological inquiries advanced by data scientists and mathematicians, technologists and product developers, and social scientists. In particular, students will explore the proposals for mandatory ethical training for those involved in the research, development, and production of the technologies implicated in the technologies that have been commandeered by foreign interference in US democratic institutions. The students will be invited to engage critically with the ethical and democratic dilemmas posed by some proposals, including increased censorship, and chilling expressive and associational freedoms.

The seminar will include a close examination of the Mueller Report: Volume I, intelligence reports, the Special Counsels indictments, and other original source material to better understand the nature of foreign interference in US elections. It will also include an in-depth discussion of interdisciplinary work authored by experts in multiple fields: data and information science, ethics, privacy law, cybersecurity, national security, federalism, state and local governments, corporate governance, election law and voting rights, media and communications law, internet governance, civil rights and civil liberties, international relations, and political science and political theory.