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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

Go deeper

Dec 9, 2020 - Technology

The search for misinformation's measure

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Facebook and other big online platforms insist they're removing more and more misinformation. But they can't say whether they're actually stemming the tide of lies, and neither can we, because the deluge turns out to be impossible to define or measure.

Why it matters: The tech companies mostly won't share data that would let researchers better track the scale, spread and impact of misinformation. So the riddle remains unsolved, and the platforms can't be held accountable.

Jan 7, 2020 - Technology
Series / Misinformation age

How Iran's disinformation threat differs from Russia

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

America "needs to be prepared for retaliation in the hard cyber space and soft information space" after killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, says a top expert at the Atlantic Council.

Why it matters: Iranian influence operations to-date have been different than other state-backed disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia.

Tech's biggest upcoming battles in 2020

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The most consequential stories for tech in 2020 pit the industry's corporate colossi against the U.S. government, foreign nations, and the human needs of their own customers.

Why it matters: Today's tech giants own and operate the informational hubs that increasingly shape our public and private lives. That's putting their products and policies under greater scrutiny than ever before.