Protected Voices: Social Media Literacy

The FBI’s Protected Voices initiative provides cybersecurity recommendations to political campaigns on multiple topics, including social media literacy, to help mitigate the risk of cyber influence operations targeting U.S. elections.

Video Transcript

If it’s on the Internet, it must be true. Right?

Many of us—and many voters—take truth in advertising for granted. But while the Federal Trade Commission keeps blatant lies out of product descriptions, there is no Internet police doing the same for online information. Especially for information shared through social media channels.

Hi, I’m Kara, a special agent with the FBI, here to talk with you about social media literacy and how that can impact your political campaign.

There are three ways that social media literacy matters to your campaign: when your campaign consumes information from social media platforms, when your campaign posts information on social media platforms, and when a third party uses social media to disseminate facts—or fiction—about your campaign.

Let’s talk first about information consumption. When your political campaign accesses and uses information it finds on the Internet, it’s important to remember that such information is created for a purpose. Things are put on the Internet to make money for someone or to influence the viewer’s perceptions of an issue or problem. So it’s really important to consider the source of the information. Who posted this material online, and why? Can you vet the information through one or more separate trusted sources? What related information might have been left out of the material you’re accessing?

Beyond considering the information itself, you should also look into the profile of whoever appears to be posting the information. Social media platforms give foreign actors a way to connect with and manipulate you—so someone who appears to be a campaign supporter might actually be a foreigner who wants to trick you into sharing sensitive campaign information. If you see something suspicious on a social media platform, you can report your concerns directly to the social media company for their review.

Now let’s look at when your campaign posts information on the Internet. When you do so, be mindful of including details that might help foreign adversaries target you, your fellow campaign employees, or campaign volunteers. For instance, if you post a photo of your candidate, check to make sure there are no names of your colleagues or other identifying information in the background. Remember to use the cybersecurity tips in our other videos, too: Use strong passphrases and multi-factor authentication to secure your accounts, and keep your contact information up to date so your social media company can reach you if they identify potentially suspicious behavior.

Finally, let’s talk about third-party posts. When a foreign adversary posts false or misleading information, their overall goal is to influence public opinion, misrepresent what the true public opinion is, divide our country, and create mistrust in our democratic processes. For example, an adversary could post a deepfake video of your candidate online. A deepfake is a realistic but false audio or video file. A deepfake might show your candidate doing or saying something that he or she never did or said. This can work in two basic ways: Your candidate’s face and voice can be superimposed onto a preexisting video of someone else, or someone else’s voice and mouth can be superimposed onto a video of your candidate. To protect your campaign against deepfakes, you might consider putting together a library of your original recordings of your candidate. If your candidate becomes a victim of a deepfake, you can point to the original video or audio.

The bottom line? Keep a healthy skepticism when you’re looking at information on the Internet. Consider why something might have been posted online, and who stands to gain from that information. Use good cyber hygiene to secure your campaign’s social media accounts, and consider creating a library of campaign videos for future reference.

Remember, your voice matters, so protect it.

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