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FBI calls on public to protect election process from foreign influence, disinformation campaigns

FBI issues guidance so voters can identify and help report foreign influence operations or other disinformation campaigns as 2020 election nears.

BOSTON — Before you share or talk about something you've seen on social media today, do you know where it's coming from?

The Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is advising the public on what to look out for before falling victim to a foreign influence campaign and or a cyber intrusion.

“We have so many people that ingest but also disseminate so much information based off of social media platforms that we thought that would be a very important topic," said Joseph Bonavolonta, the Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "We all have a role to play in protecting the sanctity of our elections from interference by criminals and other nefarious actors.”

In 2017, the FBI established the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) to identify any attack or threat towards the democratic process in the United States.

The three most common ways to undermine an election is through cyberattacks, secret funding, and weaponizing social media, according to the advisory.

“Russia, China, and to a little bit of a different extent, Iran, and what they historically do is they try to illegally influence the American political process or create disinformation campaigns in large part off of social media platforms,” said Bonavolonta.

There are ways to help combat these attacks or hidden agendas. Bonavolonta urges people to vet the source of a post, be aware of your own viewpoints and biases, know your followers and contacts, and report suspicious activity.

“Societal issue, political issue, or any other type of hot topic that is going on right now and they will work both sides of the issue," said Bonavolonta. "They will sit there through social media and try to inflame tensions and try to amplify exponentially some of these issues to create a narrative in the American public.”

Reporting threat information can be done directly through a social media site. Online platforms have a partnership with the FBI to share foreign influence operations.

For more information and easy-to-follow videos on how to protect passwords, to identify if you are a victim of computer intrusion or foreign influence campaign, visit the FBI's Protected Voices initiative website.