BOSTON (CBS) – There are five weeks to go until Election Day, and the candidates aren’t the only ones working overtime on their campaigns. The FBI warns outside the US, foreign adversaries like Russia, China and Iran are scheming with one goal:
“To really sew that doubt that for some reason our democratic institutions are not fair or just. That really at the end of the day is their end game,” explained FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta.
These threats include campaign finance crimes; voter/ballot fraud; civil rights violations; cyber threats targeting the election process, and the potential for malign foreign influence on the democratic process, elected officials, and institutions. Many are crimes the FBI has been investigating and guarding against for decades, but what has changed are the ways those adversaries now spread misinformation.
“It’s just simply the fact that now utilizing social media platforms can reach so many more people so much more quickly than ever before,” Bonavolonta added.
They’re not only trying to confuse and distract American voters on the issues, but where to vote – and even who won.
“A lot of times foreign adversaries will use social media to put out false information with respect to polling sites, dates and times … they are counting on you to blindly share their propaganda and lies, and we need you to help us protect your voices and ultimately your votes by making informed decisions about what you view, read, and share on social media,” he said.
What the Public Can Do
• Seek out information from trustworthy sources, verify who produced the content, and consider their intent: Ask yourself “Where did the information you are reading come from?” and “Who are you talking to online?” Know the origin of information, including the ideology and motivation of the source, and seek out multiple sources to make informed judgments. Be aware of your own assumptions and biases, and how a foreign adversary may choose to manipulate them. Foreign adversaries seek to deepen divisions in the United States, and they may be counting on you to forward information you don’t know to be accurate.
• Be aware of social media deception: Social media provides our adversaries with a way to connect with them easily and anonymously, so users should know their contacts and followers before forming a relationship with them virtually.
• Rely on state and local government election officials: Before election day, ensure the information you receive about your ballot, polling location, or other general information are sourced to official government websites.
• Beware of “deep fakes”: Emerging technology used to generate “deep fakes”—advanced synthetic audio and video generated through artificial intelligence—may mimic authentic communications in a manner that is hard to detect and to counter. “Deep fakes” may be able to elicit a range of responses which can compromise election security. The FBI has been working with the private sector to get ahead of this issue.
• Report suspicious activity to social media platforms: Many social media platforms provide users a means to report suspicious behavior/content. Check the respective site for reporting procedures.