Why Jenny Can’t Figure Out Which Of These Messages Is A Covert Information Operation

Caulfield, Tristan; Spring, Jonathan M; Sasse, Angela

We view foreign interference in US and UK elections via social manipulation through the lens of usable security. Our goal is to provide advice on what interventions on the socio-technical election system are likely to work, and which are likely to fail. Strategies that the usable security literature indicates are likely to work are those that (1) avoid overloading the user’s primary task; (2) help people understand negative consequences of their actions; and (3) support the long-term education of users with analytic reasoning skills and adequate background knowledge. Several of the responses to election interference proposed by governments and technology companies so far do not abide by these recommendations and are likely to be ineffective.