Feb 13, 2018

Intelligence leaders: Foreign threats to social media are as bad as ever

Intelligence and law enforcement leaders before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The leaders of America's intelligence community warned Tuesday that the threat of foreign offensives on social media had not abated:

“We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means … to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States."
— Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing

Why it matters: "There should be no doubt that Russia perceived that its past efforts [were] successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations," Coats said. "Frankly, the United States is under attack."

Note: Both CIA Director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have also previously said they expect Russia to try to interfere in the midterm elections.

The details:

  • Coats said that the threat of foreign governments using social media tactics wasn't the purview of just one agency. "There’s no single agency, quote, in charge," he said.
  • Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr noted broadly that the committee and the intelligence community has had immense difficulty in communicating with tech companies about "a way forward that is in commonality."
  • Burr asked NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers whether he was worried that dynamic would get more fraught: "Yes I am, because quite frankly I wonder so how bad does this have to get before we realize we have to do some things fundamentally differently," Rogers replied.

Go deeper

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 5,495,061 — Total deaths: 346,232 — Total recoveries — 2,231,738Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12:30 a.m. ET: 1,662,302 — Total deaths: 98,220 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

Countries where novel coronavirus cases are falling may be hit with a "second peak" if they relax restrictions too soon, World Health Organization emergencies chief Mike Ryan warned during a briefing Monday. "We're still very much in a phase where the disease is actually on the way up," he added.

By the numbers: Brazil on Monday recorded for the first time more deaths from the novel coronavirus in a single day than the United States, Reuters notes. Brazil reported 807 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, compared to 620 in the U.S. for the same period.

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