Krebs says efforts to undermine elections could lead to “death spiral”

Washington — Former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director and CBS News contributor Chris Krebs said Sunday that efforts to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system have put the country in a “death spiral.”

As CISA director, Krebs headed the Rumor Control site for the 2020 election, and he was fired by former President Trump two weeks after the presidential election. Mr. Trump has continued to insist without evidence that the election was stolen from him, most recently at a rally in Iowa on Saturday.

“What we’re seeing…is this constant erosion of confidence in the electoral system. And it is ultimately anti-democratic and we’re frankly in a death spiral as I see it,” Krebs said during an interview on “Face the Nation.” “There have to be other accountability measures for those that are going to continue to proliferate these lies.”

Krebs, who is a member of the Republican party, put the blame on the leaders of his party who he says fear going against Mr. Trump and the voting base that put him in power. have “lost control of their voting base.” 

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CBS News

“They’re afraid to speak up because they’re afraid the former president is going to try to primary them. And then the other piece is that they’ve activated and lost control of their voting base, the people that are going to put him in power. And they know that if they go against the former president that not only will he speak out against them, but they’re going to, you know, they’re going to start seeing people show up at their town hall,” Krebs said, adding that many Republican members of Congress have stopped holding town halls. “They’ve lost control and they don’t have the ability to rein it back in.”

Krebs on Sunday also spoke about testimony given by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, agreeing that the protections provided to social media platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be reformed and the protections “stripped away.” 

During her testimony before Congress last week, Haugen described how outrage on social media generates more engagement and that platform algorithms feed into those extremes. Krebs said Sunday that a “harder look” needs to be taken into how social media platforms generate revenue through engagement. He concluded that the lack of public information on how algorithms work is the biggest problem right now.

“The biggest issue here is that we do not have enough insight and information around these algorithms and what drives the sprawl of information,” Krebs said, likening the lack of transparency to a “post-Enron moment.” “And so, we’re going to need some equivalent of Sarbanes-Oxley that requires these platforms to provide access to security researchers, to journalists, to regulators. Regulation should be on the table for Congress. And I think this is one of those few areas right now where we have an opportunity for bipartisan engagement.”