Covert influence operations, including disinformation operations, to influencepublic opinion and sow division.Using false U.S. personas, adversaries could covertly create and operate social media pages and other forums designed to attract U.S. audiences and spread disinformation or divisive messages. This could happen in isolation or in combination with other operations, and could be intended to foster specific narratives that advance foreign political objectives, or could be intended simply to turn citizens against each other. These messages need not relate directly to political campaigns. They could seek to depress voter turnout among particular groups, encourage third-party voting, or convince the public of widespread voter fraud to undermine confidence in election results. These messages could target discrete U.S. populations based on their politicaland demographic characteristics. They may mobilize Americans to sign online petitionsand join issue-related rallies and protests, or even to incite violence. For example, advertisements from at least 2015 to 2017 linked to a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency focused on divisive issues, including illegal immigration and gun rights, among others, and targeted those messages to groups most likely to react.
Thank you for the invitation to speak today, and for the important work you are doing: in organizing this conference devoted to the challenges of misinformation, and, by attending, bringing your experience and expertise to bear on the problem.
It’s a privilege to help kick off this first day of MisinfoCon, focused on state-sponsored misinformation. To do that, I am going to give you an overview of how the Department of Justice views the problem, where it fits in the context of related national security threats, and how we are addressing it.