(Bloomberg) -- There are no specific threats to US voting systems for the coming midterm elections, but messages that the result can’t be trusted are being amplified online, with Russia the most aggressive influence among foreign foes, the FBI said.
Such messaging, being pushed in states across the country by political candidates and others in the US, is being seized on by foreign adversaries to sow division, Federal Bureau of Investigation officials said Monday in a briefing with reporters in Washington. Russia, China and Iran are all acting opportunistically in the run-up to the Nov. 8 vote to advance their interests, according to the agency.
The agency doesn’t see the foreign actors as needing to create divisive content, as Russia did during the 2016 US presidential election. Instead, it said, they are leveraging existing domestic US content, especially material questioning the legitimacy of American elections.
Russia appears to be the most active when it comes to efforts to identify and supercharge topics that can aggravate divisions within the US through social media and other tactics, either by its own efforts or by using proxies, FBI officials said. Among other issues, the Russian government has seized on US policy on Moscow’s war against Ukraine, which includes military aid to the besieged country, highlighting the impact the conflict is having on energy prices.
The Chinese government has primarily focused on more conventional efforts to advance its interests but is starting to take a page from Russia’s playbook to exploit rifts in the US, the FBI said.
The FBI said it isn’t questioning Americans about their beliefs to determine whether foreign-amplified messages are having an impact, since the content is covered by US constitutional rights. Instead, the agency said, it is focused on identifying nefarious intent and capabilities and providing information to those who can make use of it, such as social media companies.
It is also tracking threats to election workers across the country and has investigated more than 1,000 of them since June 2021, leading to four arrests so far, according to bureau statistics. Almost 60% of the threats were in states where controversy -- and conspiracy theories -- over the 2020 election results was hottest, such as Arizona, Georgia and Michigan.
(Adds details and context starting in second paragraph.)
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
How to apply for the new Canada Dental Benefit
Tips to deal with shrinkflation at the mall as some shoppers question discounts
TD says 'irregular activity' alert prompted pause of Canada Post loan program
4 reasons for thrift store gifts this year
What the new GDP report might mean for the next Bank of Canada decision
Real estate in 2023: Re/Max forecasts 3.3% decline in home prices