USA TODAY US Edition

De­layed re­sults could boost dis­in­for­ma­tion

Fed­eral agen­cies warn of loop­hole for bad ac­tors

- Kris­tine Phillips and Kevin John­son Con­tribut­ing: David Jack­son and Joey Gar­ri­son

WASH­ING­TON – The FBI and the Cy­ber­se­cu­rity and In­fra­struc­ture Se­cu­rity Agency warned that for­eign ac­tors and cy­ber­crim­i­nals could try to dis­credit the elec­toral process by spread­ing false in­for­ma­tion as state and elec­tion of­fi­cials work to cer­tify 2020 elec­tion re­sults.

The wide­spread use of mail-in bal­lots be­cause of COVID-19 will cause de­lays in an­nounc­ing the re­sults of elec­tions, as some states al­low the bal­lots to be post­marked on elec­tion day.

“For­eign ac­tors and cy­ber­crim­i­nals could ex­ploit the time re­quired to cer­tify and an­nounce elec­tions’ re­sults by dis­sem­i­nat­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion that in­cludes re­ports of voter sup­pres­sion, cy­ber­at­tacks tar­get­ing elec­tion in­fra­struc­ture, voter or bal­lot fraud, and other prob­lems in­tended to con­vince the pub­lic of the elec­tions’ il­le­git­i­macy,” the agen­cies said in a pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment re­leased Tues­day.

The agen­cies said false in­for­ma­tion could be found on so­cial me­dia or new or al­tered web­sites. The agen­cies urge peo­ple to think crit­i­cally about the sources of in­for­ma­tion they con­sume.

An in­tel­li­gence as­sess­ment pub­lished last month found that Rus­sia is ac­tively work­ing to “den­i­grate” Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Joe Bi­den. The find­ings by the Na­tional Coun­ter­In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity Cen­ter called out pro-Rus­sia Ukraine par­lia­men­tar­ian An­driy Derkach for spread­ing false cor­rup­tion claims to un­der­mine Bi­den’s pres­i­den­tial bid.

The as­sess­ment also con­cluded that China saw Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as “un­pre­dictable” and wants him to lose the elec­tion.

FBI Di­rec­tor Christophe­r Wray tes­ti­fied be­fore a House panel last week that Rus­sia re­mains “very ac­tive” in its ef­fort to sow dis­cord in the U.S. elec­toral process. Re­ports by the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee have backed find­ings by for­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller that Rus­sia sought to sway the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race in Trump’s fa­vor.

Trump at­tacked Wray fol­low­ing his tes­ti­mony, telling re­porters Fri­day that he “did not like” the FBI di­rec­tor’s an­swers.

“The big prob­lem is China, and why he doesn’t want to say that ... that cer­tainly both­ers me,” said Trump, who has fre­quently tried to dis­credit ev­i­dence of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence and has un­leashed re­lent­less at­tacks on the le­git­i­macy of mail-in vot­ing.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Barr echoed Trump, telling CNN that China, not Rus­sia, is the most ag­gres­sive in ef­forts to in­ter­fere in U.S. elec­tions.

“Be­cause I’ve seen the in­tel­li­gence. That’s what I’ve con­cluded,” Barr said, de­clin­ing to elab­o­rate fur­ther.

On Tues­day, Face­book said it re­moved fake ac­counts and pages that orig­i­nated from China and posted con­tent fa­vor­ing and op­pos­ing Trump, Bi­den and for­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Pete But­tigieg.

The com­pany, how­ever, said the ac­tiv­ity was not linked to the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment and gained very lit­tle fol­low­ing.

 ?? NATI HARNIK/AP ?? The wide­spread use of mail-in bal­lots may spark de­lays in an­nounc­ing elec­tion re­sults.
NATI HARNIK/AP The wide­spread use of mail-in bal­lots may spark de­lays in an­nounc­ing elec­tion re­sults.

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