US agencies warn of disinformation on delayed election results

Tribune Content Agency

WASHINGTON — Foreign actors and cybercriminals are likely to try to spread false information about the U.S. presidential election, including questioning any results not released on Nov. 3, by creating fake websites, altering existing sites or creating and sharing social media content, federal authorities warned.

The intent of the election meddling would be to discredit the electoral process or undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions, according to a public service announcement released Tuesday by the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is known as CISA.

The announcement notes that because of the increase in mail-in ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials may be left with incomplete results on election night.

“Foreign actors and cybercriminals could exploit the time required to certify and announce elections’ results by disseminating disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud or other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy,” the agencies said.

The federal agencies urged the American public to “critically evaluate” their sources of information and to “seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources, such as state and local election officials.”

The U.S. has warned that Russia, China and Iran seek to advance their preferences ahead of the U.S. election. This month, Facebook Inc. announced it removed a small batch of accounts associated with the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency, which waged a social media campaign ahead of the 2016 presidential election to assist then candidate Donald Trump’s election and sow division among voters. And Microsoft Corp. announced that the three countries had attempted to hack political targets including the Trump campaign and that of his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

“Ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections, foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process,” William Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center said in a statement this summer.

“Many foreign actors have a preference for who wins the election, which they express through a range of overt and private statements; covert influence efforts are rarer,” Evanina said.


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