Sep 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

FBI: Foreign actors likely to sow disinformation about delays in election results

The FBI seal.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a public service announcement on Tuesday warning that mail-in ballots "could leave officials with incomplete results on election night," and that foreign actors are likely to spread disinformation about the delays.

The bottom line: The agencies called on the public to "critically evaluate the sources of the information they consume and to seek out reliable and verified information from trusted sources," including state and local election officials.

The big picture: The agencies expect foreign malign actors to disseminate false reports of "voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud, and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy."

  • In addition, the perpetrators "could create new websites, change existing websites, and create or share corresponding social media content to spread false information in an attempt to discredit the electoral process and undermine confidence in U.S. democratic institutions."

Between the lines: The alert echoes the warning of FBI Director Chris Wray, who last week told Congress he fears a "steady drumbeat of misinformation and sort of amplification of smaller cyber intrusions" could sow distrust in the results of the election.

  • President Trump has been among the most high-profile figures to stoke fears of election-night fraud, warning in an interview with "Axios on HBO" that "lots of things can happen" with voting by mail if the presidential race isn't decided on election night.
  • Election experts say there's a good chance that the presidential race won't be decided on election night because of the large volume of mail-in voting, but this does not mean that widespread fraud or an inaccurate count should be anticipated.

Go deeper: The lines are blurring between foreign and domestic disinformation

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