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Emailed threats in Florida dry up as congressional delegation asks for FBI briefing

By Ana Ceballos and Samantha J. Gross, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

The video, described as "spooky" by an elections spokeswoman who saw it, shows someone pretending to hack the Federal Voter Assistance Program, which helps overseas military members, their families and voters cast their ballots.

Trish Robertson, a spokeswoman for the office who saw the video, said the video plays over death metal music and pretends to hack the program's website. Voters in the county did not report it — she was shown the video by a co-worker and emphasized she was not "fooled" by it.

"All they were doing was going between two websites on their desktop. But when you add death metal music in the background and you know it is something dealing with elections, it's a spooky video. It's creepy," Robertson said.

The video, which was first reported by Vice, opens with footage of Trump making disparaging comments about mail-in ballots. It then shows someone claiming to hack voting data and trying to produce a fraudulent ballot through the Federal Voting Assistance Program website.

Jesse Littlewood, vice president of campaigns at watchdog group Common Cause, said emails and videos meant to make the elections system look insecure or suspicious follow a pattern of attempts to "shake people's faith in the integrity of our elections."

The problem is not exclusively foreign either, he added.


"We have seen some domestic bad actors use disinformation to create mistrust and it has had measurable effects," Littlewood said. "These examples try to prey on and stoke people's fear, and that has been amplified."

David Brody, an attorney at the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights who is familiar with the video, said "the video is BS."

"This is not a risk. This is not a real threat. This is an attempt to sow doubt and chaos and confusion in the election," said Brody, who specializes in privacy, technology and hate groups. "The voting systems are secure and no one can actually do what the video is purporting to do. It doesn't work that way."

And no more of the threatening emails were being reported by voters Thursday in Alachua, Citrus and Collier counties, three of the six counties targeted by the emails, according to local officials. Voters in those counties have not reported any videos, local officials said.


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