With congressional elections just a year away, lawmakers are scrambling to stop Russia from hacking state election systems and using social media to create chaos and uncertainty among voters. But Congress may be stymied by its reluctance to regulate private tech companies and by states’ traditional aversion to any federal control over their elections, analysts say. The burden on the three congressional committees conducting investigations into Russian meddling has become much greater than simply trying to prevent Kremlin-linked groups from stealing campaign emails, as they allegedly did last year in cyber attacks against the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Recent revelations about the extent of Russian efforts — both past and present — to spread disinformation via Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites underscores just how big a challenge Congress is facing as it heads toward the 2018 midterm elections.
“Congress may have begun its investigation looking for a nice, neat smoking keyboard,” said Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno. “But this is not a case where you can call the vendor and get a patch to plug a security hole. This has become incredibly complicated.”