Combating Foreign Influence
Foreign influence operations—which include covert actions by foreign governments to influence U.S. political sentiment or public discourse—are not a new problem. But the interconnectedness of the modern world, combined with the anonymity of the Internet, have changed the nature of the threat and how the FBI and its partners must address it. The goal of these foreign influence operations directed against the United States is to spread disinformation, sow discord, and, ultimately, undermine confidence in our democratic institutions and values.
The FBI is the lead federal agency responsible for investigating foreign influence operations. In the fall of 2017, Director Christopher Wray established the Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) to identify and counteract malign foreign influence operations targeting the United States.
Foreign influence operations have taken many forms and used many tactics over the years. Most widely reported these days are attempts by adversaries—hoping to reach a wide swath of Americans covertly from outside the United States—to use false personas and fabricated stories on social media platforms to discredit U.S. individuals and institutions.
Other influence operations by adversaries include:
- Targeting U.S. officials and other U.S. persons through traditional intelligence tradecraft
- Criminal efforts to suppress voting and provide illegal campaign financing
- Cyber attacks against voting infrastructure, along with computer intrusions targeting elected officials and others
The FITF is made up of representatives from our Counterintelligence, Cyber, Criminal, and Counterterrorism Divisions, and the task force also coordinates with other FBI divisions as needed. Task force personnel work closely with other U.S. government agencies and international partners concerned about foreign influence efforts aimed at their countries.
Through the FITF, the FBI is taking a three-pronged approach to this serious threat:
- Investigations and operations: The FITF works with FBI field offices across the country to counter the extensive influence operations of our foreign adversaries.
- Information and intelligence sharing: The FBI works closely with other intelligence community agencies, as well as with state and local law enforcement partners and election officials, to ensure a common understanding of the threat and a unified strategy to address it.
- Private sector partnerships: The FBI considers strategic engagement with U.S. technology companies, including threat indicator sharing, to be important in combating foreign influence actors.