Russia and China are promoting US voting misinformation ahead of midterms, FBI warns


Washington
CNN

Agents and organizations affiliated with the Russian and Chinese governments are promoting disinformation about the integrity of US elections that took place in the United States before the November midterms, senior FBI officials said Monday.

The FBI assessment highlights how the explosion of election conspiracy theories in the United States has been fertile ground for foreign agents since Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat.

Recent Russian influence operations, which have been more pronounced than Chinese operations, generally involve amplifying the conversations Americans have on social media or other platforms rather than creating new content, a senior official said Monday. senior official of the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force during a press briefing. .

For their part, Chinese agents have shown signs of engaging in more “Russian-style influence activities” that fuel American divisions, the FBI official said. The official pointed to Facebook’s recent shutdown, owned by Meta, of accounts originating in China that posted memes mocking President Joe Biden and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.

The FBI and other U.S. agencies held a classified briefing for election officials across the country last Thursday, where foreign influence operations and concerns about violent threats against election officials were raised, it said. reported CNN last week.

Since Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, a series of foreign governments have shown more interest in shaping American public opinion or spreading disinformation ahead of the US election, according to US intelligence officials.

Iran, too, is ready to “benefit from election integrity stories that arise in the American ecosystem,” the top FBI official said on Monday.

The current concern is that the work of foreign agents is being made easier by an increasingly tense US political environment in which candidates routinely question the integrity of US elections.

That concern was exposed during Monday’s briefing, where a senior FBI Cyber ​​Division official said the bureau was unaware of any hacking campaign specifically targeting US elections before the midterms.

However, the FBI is “concerned that malicious actors may seek to spread or amplify false or exaggerated claims of compromised election infrastructure,” the official said. “It is important that all Americans understand that allegations of cyber compromise will not prevent them from being able to vote.”

Some officials were surprised by the extent to which Iranian operatives sought to interfere in the 2020 elections. fueling violence against US election officials.

While that level of activity has not materialized in this election cycle, the FBI is “keeping tabs” on the extent to which Iran is “opportunistically identifying options” to interfere in the mid-term vote. 2022 term, the head of the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force said. Strength.

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