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Pres Election Target for Disinformation06/13 06:16


   WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. officials who track disinformation campaigns say 
they have issued more warnings to political candidates, government leaders and 
others targeted by foreign groups in recent months as America's adversaries 
seek to influence the outcome of the 2024 election.

   Without giving specifics, an official from the Office of the Director of 
National Intelligence said Wednesday that the number is higher, at least in 
part, because "presidential elections draw more attention from our adversaries."

   The increase in notifications to targeted individuals, which began last 
fall, could also reflect a growing threat or the government's improved 
detection capabilities, or both, said the official, who was one of several to 
brief reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the office 
of the director.

   Lawmakers from both parties have voiced worries about the nation's 
preparedness for foreign disinformation during the presidential election and 
the corrosive impact it has on voter confidence and trust in democratic 
institutions. They also have questioned whether the federal government is up to 
the task of issuing timely and effective warnings to voters when nations like 
Russia and China use disinformation to try to shape American politics.

   Influence operations can include false or exaggerated claims and propaganda 
designed to mislead voters about specific candidates, issues or races. It can 
also include social media posts or other digital content that seeks to suppress 
the vote through intimidation or by giving voters false information about 
election procedures.

   Officials say the list of nations launching such campaigns includes familiar 
foes like Russia, China and Iran as well as a growing number of second-tier 
players like Cuba. They also noted indications that some nations allied with 
the U.S. could mount their own efforts to influence voters.

   Russia was the top threat, one of the officials said, noting that its main 
objectives are degrading public support for Ukraine and eroding confidence in 
American democracy in general.

   China is considered to be more cautious about its online disinformation 
campaigns and more concerned than Russia about potential blowback from the 
U.S., officials said. Iran is seen as a "chaos agent" that is more likely to 
experiment with online techniques to stoke voter anger and even violence.

   Officials would not specify how many private warnings they have issued to 
candidates, political organizations or local election offices. Such warnings 
are delivered after an interagency panel of intelligence officials concludes 
that an influence operation could impact the outcome of an election or prevent 
certain groups from voting.

   The notifications are only given when officials can attribute the operation 
to foreign sources, allowing the person or group that was targeted to "take a 
more defensive stance," an official said.

   The office within the intelligence community that leads the work, the 
Foreign Malign Influence Center, has no jurisdiction over domestic groups. The 
officials who briefed reporters Wednesday said they work to avoid any 
appearance of policing Americans' speech or playing favorites when it comes to 

   Intelligence officials have issued only one public warning so far -- in 2020 
when groups linked to Iran sent emails to Democratic voters in an apparent 
effort to intimidate them into voting for Donald Trump.

   Powerful artificial intelligence programs that allow the rapid creation of 
images, audio and video pose a growing problem, as adversaries look to use the 
technology to create lifelike fakes that could easily mislead voters.

   The use of AI has already popped up ahead of elections in India, Mexico, 
Moldova, Slovakia and Bangladesh, and in the U.S., where some voters in New 
Hampshire received an AI robocall that mimicked the voice of President Joe 

   AI deepfakes used by U.S. adversaries remain a top threat, officials said.

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