The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued an announcement this week to sound the alarm warning local police and election officials about the very real threat posed by foreign-backed online websites that help in spreading disinformation and propaganda regarding the November 3, 2020 election-cycle.
Foreign intelligence agencies are known to use websites, including pseudo-academic online webpages, to disseminate articles with misleading or unsubstantiated information, according to the memorandum obtained by police organizations representing local and state police – such as the National Association of Chiefs of Police, the Fraternal Order of Police, the NYPD Police Benevolent Association, and others representing hundreds of thousands of cops..
These sites disguised as news/commentary organizations could be utilized during the 2020 election presidential race in an attempt to mislead the public, increase sometimes societal divisions, cause widespread confusion, discredit the electoral process, and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions.
“While foreign actors are involved in the illegitimate actions, there are reports of supposedly legitimate Internet news websites that intentionally spread unfounded rumors designed to cast doubts about presidential candidates such as Donald Trump,” claims former police intelligence officer Douglas William Jennings.
“A perfect example of this treachery is the so-called Spygate-Russiagate attempt to use unfounded information to hurt President Trump and remove him from office,” Jennings claims.
According to the FBI release, “Foreign intelligence services have used online journals, including some with a global reach, to exacerbate disunity and dysfunction in the United States while also misinforming or misleading readers. Foreign governments have used these journals to amplify their disinformation and overt propaganda, and they have used websites, social media, and other online platforms to amplify the journals’ messages and increase their global reach.
“As foreign actors intensify their efforts to influence the outcome of the 2020 U.S. elections, they could use online journals to advance and launder misinformation and disinformation to denigrate or support specific candidates or political parties.
“Foreign actors could also use online journals to target the U.S. elections by making claims of voter suppression, amplifying reports of real or alleged cyberattacks on election infrastructure, asserting voter or ballot fraud, and spreading other information intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”
The federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), U.S. Secret Service, and others – released the following advice:
- Seek out information from trustworthy sources, verify who produced the content, and consider their intent.
- Rely on state and local election officials as the authoritative sources of information about how elections are conducted in their jurisdictions.
- Verify through multiple reliable sources any reports about problems in voting or election results, and consider searching for other reliable sources before sharing such information via social media or other avenues.
- Report potential election crimes—such as disinformation about the manner, time, or place of voting—to the FBI.
- If appropriate, make use of in-platform tools offered by social media companies for reporting suspicious posts that appear to be spreading false or inconsistent information about election-related problems or results.
“The FBI and CISA urge the American public to critically evaluate the sources of the information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information. The FBI is responsible for investigating malign foreign influence operations and malicious cyber activity targeting election infrastructure and other U.S. democratic institutions. CISA is responsible for protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats. The FBI and CISA provide services and information to uphold the security, integrity, and resiliency of the U.S. electoral processes,” said an FBI statement
VICTIM REPORTING AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The FBI encourages the public to report information concerning suspicious or criminal activity to their local field office (www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices) or to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). For additional assistance, best practices, and common terms, please visit the following websites:
- Protected Voices: www.fbi.gov/investigate/counterintelligence/foreign-influence/protected-voices
- Election Crimes and Security: www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/election-crimes-and-security
- #Protect2020: www.cisa.gov/protect2020