When it comes to election interference in democratic countries, malign foreign actors possess many tools and weapons, but they all generally fall into two categories: “changing minds or changing votes.” Russia, this election, appears to be focused on the former more than the latter, reports NPR.
Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee Thursday, FBI Director Christopher Wray noted that Russia’s “active measures” against the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign appear more focused on agitation and disinformation than cyber attacks against states’ elections systems.
Wray stated that the FBI and Intelligence Community (IC) are seeing disinformation and agitation this year similar to that of 2016, but less cyberattacks than before: “We have not seen that second part yet, this year,” he said.
In August the Director of National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) at The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) revealed its assessments about which candidates are being supported or opposed by certain foreign state actors. The primary threats being China, Russia, and Iran.
In its assessment, the NCSC concluded that China prefers that President Trump lose the election to Joe Biden due to Trump’s strong stance against China globally; that Iran also favors a Biden victory over Trump due to his strong stance against Tehran; and that Russia is working against former Vice President Joe Biden, “and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’”
With regards to Russian interference efforts, NPR explains it thusly:
Russian influence-mongers spread disinformation, turn up the volume on controversy and generally try to pit Americans against each other, including with fake accounts and support for what they consider marginal candidates or for some groups not to vote at all.
The goal is to make some Americans so angry they support a preferred candidate and others so angry — and disaffected — they don’t vote for another.