If a Facebook page or an Instagram post is offering the location of your polling place, you should double check that with your local elections office, the FBI director said Thursday at a congressional hearing. Better yet, don’t get your election information from social media at all.
The House Committee on Homeland Security hosted on Thursday its annual worldwide threats hearing, where intelligence agencies in past years have warned about international cyberattacks and online disinformation.
Disinformation campaigns remained a focus of Thursday’s hearing. FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that Russia is looking to influence the 2020 US presidential election by attacking Democratic nominee Joe Biden on social media.
Wray’s testimony confirms findings from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which said in August that Russians are trying to undermine the former vice president’s candidacy.
The FBI director said that social networks like Facebook and Twitter have worked with the bureau to take down disinformation campaigns, but he also warned Americans against getting election information on those platforms.
“It’s particularly of concern to us in the election context when Americans make the mistake of getting information about elections themselves on social media,” Wray said. “We’re trying to make sure Americans know [that] to get information about where, when and how you vote, you need to go to your local election official’s website. Don’t take it from social media.”
If you want accurate election information, find your local officials’ website, the FBI director said.
Facebook said in a statement that details for its own election information hub come directly from the sources that Wray mentions.
“An important part of our Voting Information Center is that we link to and source information from state election officials and other nonpartisan civic organizations,” a company spokesperson said. “And we’ll continue to work closely with state election officials through November to ensure the centers are updated with the latest election information in each state.”
Twitter declined to comment.
Disinformation campaigns aren’t limited to attacks against politicians or policies. When Russians working for a Kremlin-backed troll farm posed as Americans on Facebook and Twitter ahead of the 2016 election, posts included memes showing the wrong polling date for voters. On Facebook, such posts reached about 126 million Americans.
That tactic is still prevalent, with a conservative account on TikTok telling Democrats to vote the day after Election Day.
Despite Wray’s warning, nearly one in five American adults get their political news from social media.
Facebook and Twitter have both created their own election information hubs to deliver accurate information about voting. If you’re looking for election information from your local officials, you can use this directory to find it.
The FBI director told Congress his biggest concern related to election security is that Americans could lose confidence in democracy because of misinformation online.
“I worry people will take on a feeling of futility because of all the noise and confusion that’s generated,” Wray said. “And that’s a very hard problem to combat.”