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FBI in Boston warns of foreign interference in 2020 election, advises public to avoid ‘blindly sharing their propaganda and lies’

FBI agent marks progress on a wall board of police officer pictures for Operation Guard Shack, a massive public corruption takedown in Puerto Rico in October 2010. (FBI/Released)

The Boston Division of the FBI on Monday warned residents of foreign influence and disinformation campaigns that may include “deep fakes” in advance of the 2020 election.

As the agency said it it monitoring threats from foreign countries, including Russia and China, leading up to the Nov. 3 election and offered tips for the public to avoid deception.

“Foreign adversaries are counting on you to blindly share their propaganda and lies, and we need you to help us protect your voices and ultimately your votes by making informed decisions about what you view, read, and share on social media,” Special Agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta said in a statement. “That’s why we’re issuing this guidance. We all have a role to play in protecting the sanctity of our elections from interference by criminals and other nefarious actors.”

The FBI advised citizens to seek out information from trustworthy sources and verify who produced the content. The origin of the content including the ideology and motivation of the source providing the information should be confirmed through multiple outlets, the FBI said.

“Be aware of your own assumptions and biases, and how a foreign adversary may choose to manipulate them,” the FBI said. “Foreign adversaries seek to deepen divisions in the United States, and they may be counting on you to forward information you don’t know to be accurate.”

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Specifically, the FBI pointed to social media as a forum for misinformation spread by foreign adversaries. Even video that appears real may be edited, the FBI warned. The FBI said groups purposely spread misinformation to confuse and divide the country.

The agency said the campaigns spread beyond written stories or photos and highlighted “deep fakes,” which use artificial intelligence to generate audio and video of a subject saying or doing something. The “deep fakes” appear real but are computer generated images.

“’Deep fakes’ may be able to elicit a range of responses which can compromise election security,” the FBI said. “The FBI has been working with the private sector to get ahead of this issue.”

The agency emphasized that the public rely information from state and local government election officials.

Any election day information, including ballot, polling location, or other general information, the FBI said, should be sourced specifically through official government websites.

Any suspicious activity on social media can be reported to the FBI at 857-386-2000 or by email at tips.fbi.gov, the agency said.

“Foreign adversaries, including Russia and China, and foreign-aligned groups try to illegally influence American political processes,” the FBI said. “Malign foreign influence operations are designed to undermine confidence in our democratic institutions.”

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© 2020 MassLive.com