Vice Publishes Bullshit Nonsense Article Blaming DEFCON Voting Village For 'Stop The Steal' Idiots

from the this-is-bad-reporting dept

Vice News has some really great reporters on tech issues who work for its Motherboard publication. For reasons that don’t make sense, last week they had some other reporter write an absolutely ridiculously bad story trying to argue that the “stop the steal” idiots were helped along by the amazingly important work done by folks in the famed “Voting Village” at the DEFCON conference. The full article is long and bad and has the ridiculous and misleading title: How an “Ethical” Hacker Convention Is Fueling Trump’s Big Lie. But the very premise of this story is not just wrong, but dangerously stupid. It’s shameful that anyone at Vice thought this was an appropriate story to publish.

The facts are this: there have been quite reasonable concerns about the security and technology in certain electronic voting machines going back decades. In fact, Techdirt covered tons of these stories, which were often about problems with the security in early machines, the lack of paper trails for the votes, and (perhaps most importantly) the unwillingness of the voting machine companies to work transparently with actual security researchers who could help harden those machines. Voting Village was set up in DEFCON as a response to that, in which these ethical hackers would get their hands on voting machines, seek out the vulnerabilities in order to help harden the security and improve these machines. It’s how cybersecurity has always worked.

And while it is true that some of the Stop the Steal grifters have tried to take some of the headlines or presentations from DEFCON and pretend that they prove that the 2020 election was hacked or broken or whatnot, that’s got nothing to do with Voting Village “helping” them. If it weren’t for Voting Village, those same grifters would have found other reports and other news stories to misinterpret and to make their unsubstantiated claims.

The simple fact is that just because security researchers have concerns about some voting machines, and have worked to highlight where security vulnerabilities might be, that does not mean that an election is easily hacked, or that any election was actually hacked. That’s the kind of thing that the “stop the steal” grifters have never been able to show and all of the evidence to date has failed to substantiate.

Paragraphs like this are utter nonsense:

And then there is DEFCON. The experts here agree that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, and many have worked hard to debunk those conspiracy theories. But with its sensationalist rhetoric, flashy theatrics, unstructured hacking, and lack of context about how elections operate, DEFCON also emphasizes the vulnerabilities that are possible, even when they?re not necessarily probable. As a result, the event serves as easy fodder for dis- and malinformation, showing how even well-intentioned experts are being used to prop up the Big Lie.

Yeah, it emphasizes vulnerabilities are possible because of course they’re possible. That’s just being factual and accurate. And, on top of that, the way to minimize those vulnerabilities and to better protect elections is to allow security researchers to find those vulnerabilities, report them, and seek better ways of protecting voting. And that’s exactly what Voting Village does. Arguing that they should somehow be blamed because idiots are misrepresenting their work, as if the work was the problem is so disingenuous to be effectively disinformation.

Or as security researchers Rob Graham rightly notes:

As he notes later in the thread, “pretty much all government transparency information is at some point misrepresented by conspiracy theorists” but that’s no excuse to say we should have less transparency.

Others, like Kim Zetter — one of the best cybersecurity reporters ever — point out that the reporter’s main sources for the article appear to be people close to voting tech companies and election officials, which are the two groups of people who are most frequently embarrassed by the security research that comes out of Voting Village. In other words, this was a hit piece, put in place by folks who have long wanted to destroy Voting Village. In fact, Zetter highlights that one of the main sources quoted in the article has complained about Voting Village for years, which seems like extremely relevant context that was left out of the article.

Others noted that many of the actual experts in this space — names which have been mentioned on Techdirt frequently, like Alex Halderman and Matt Blaze — are not quoted in the article at all. The author claimed that while he spoke to many such experts he didn’t have room to include their quotes. Maggie MacAlpine, a Voting Village organizer notes that neither she nor any of her colleagues were quoted, and the article is full of “unattributed, and factually incorrect statements.”

Matt Blaze — again, one of the foremost experts on election security issues — summed up the nonsense premise of the article perfectly:

He later notes three important facts about the complicated world of computer security:

  • There’s been great progress securing US election infrastructure.
  • There are still serious vulnerabilities and much work is left to be done.
  • Yet there’s no evidence technical attacks have altered election outcomes.

And the only reason the first bullet point is as true as it is, is because of the work of the security researchers like those who populate Voting Village every year at DEFCON. The only reason more work is progressing on the second point is because of the same thing. And articles like this one in Vice make that much, much more difficult.

Do better, Vice.

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Comments on “Vice Publishes Bullshit Nonsense Article Blaming DEFCON Voting Village For 'Stop The Steal' Idiots”

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10 Comments
Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

A-Typicality (or am I the only one who sees this?)

"Arguing that they(Ethical Hackers) should somehow be blamed"

it is just me, or is a VAST majority of this country filled with Narcissists?!!?!

really! under every rock, behind every business outfit, within every court or higher office, there lies another Narcissist: afraid of being "discovered" so they go out of their way to vilify ANY semblance of Nobility, Research, Knowledge, Understanding, etc. choosing instead to write their own script based solely on F.U.D.[Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt] to justify their actions and hoping none call them on it,…
Where do you think No Child Left Behind comes from?
the SAME motives,.. "let us keep people stupid, so they never learn to think critically, then we can tell them anything and they will believe us! see? we wear a suit, or a white lab coat with a stethoscope around our neck!"

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: A-Typicality (or am I the only one who sees this?)

WTF is it with people using no child left as a random barely applicable example if you squint real hard on every website i read right now? I’ve seen the bush jr era policy blamed for the stupidity of people who had graduated college before bush sr was ever elected. It’s worse than citizens untitled as far as scapegoating problems.

Who was it? Alex Jones? Tucker? Farron Cousins? i need to know what internet talking head decided to blame the stupidity of the world on a mild extension of previously existing dumb standard testing policies.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: A-Typicality (or am I the only one who sees this?)

Right, but it’s not just this one guy. in the last 2weeks i’ve seen this same wild train of thought around NCLB in 2 different facebook comment threads, youtube comments, twitter threads, and Ars Technica comments, and i’m sure i’ve seen more. Normally that means you’ve got a internet personality ranting and all his fanbois have started aping the behavior.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: A-Typicality (or am I the only one who sees this?)

NCLB is a scapegoat for lack of critical thinking or lack of in education in general, ironically not asking how much critical thinking there was beforehand or how good the system was. If judging by Satanic Ritual Abuse panics not very good back then either.

It seems education especially the stance is "never check your prior assumptions when talking about it" given Common Core, New Math(s), etc. all become the well from which all sorrows are drawn.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"But with its sensationalist rhetoric, flashy theatrics, unstructured hacking, and lack of context about how elections operate"

So they read their own coverage?

Some researchers once remotely hacked a car, still waiting for the insane to claim thats how the CIA drove JFK’s car at just the right speed for the shot.

The supporters of the "big lie" also claim they found bamboo at some vote counting places & that proves the Chinese air dropped in ballots… why wasn’t Vice investigating people who have championed using bamboo as a replacement for other things as it is more environmentally friendly? OBVIOUSLY they were just creating the ground work to coverup the fake bamboo ballots.

To lay the blame at the feet of people you NEVER INTERVIEWED & only offered 1 sided "reporting" of assumptions…
I guess Vice wants to cash in on the OANN crowd.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Look over there, a scapegoat!'

Funny, if you were looking for someone to blame for the Stop The Steal nutters you’d think the very top of the list would be those that were saying that the election would be ‘stolen’, for months on end, rather than a group who just look into security in general.

Ah well, I’m sure the aim of the article’s blame has absolutely nothing to do with who wrote it and who were used as sources, and it’s a pure coincidence I’m sure that they missed the most obvious target for blame and landed on one several layers down.

restless94110 (profile) says:

Seriously?

Seriously who is this guy you have writing for you?

I mean I know that many at TechDirt have no idea what physics is, but to have no idea what math is? What statistics are? What long-time voter metrics (supported by President Carter) is?

The idea that a guy who held 3 rallys consisting of a total of 10 people in cars in a semi circle during the entire campaign and then got 16 million votes more than Obama in 2012?

You aren’t able to pick out the anomalies–mathematical, statistical, voter practce-al? And this is a techie blog? You would think the opposite would be true. That techies who know math would examine and that they would never ever say that the claims of election fraud were themselves fraudulent.

You would think this. But you would be wrong. Non-math, non-statistics, non-regular voter practices are firmly in charge at Tech Dirt!!!

Does this blog portend the future of technology? If it does, we are well and truly done.

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