The FBI’s relationship with Silicon Valley in tackling foreign influence campaigns targeting the United States has “changed dramatically,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told senators on Tuesday, citing what he said was an improvement in cooperation between the agency and Big Tech.
“I think that there is enormous value to be had in our cooperation with the tech sector and social media in particular on the foreign influence threat,” Wray told a Senate panel, adding, “one of the things that changed dramatically from ’16 to ’18 was our coordination with social media in terms of blunting and mitigating that effect.”
“And what we saw in 2018 which I think we’re going to do even more of in 2020, in terms of lessons, is that when we supply leads and information to the social media companies there’s all kinds of ways they can leverage their own tools and kick some of these accounts off of their platforms very, very quickly in a way that would be hard for any agency of government to do and there were a lot of success stories in that regard in 2018,” he said.
Just hours before Election Day in last November’s midterm elections, Facebook announced it had taken down a network of fake accounts over possible connections to a Russian government-linked troll group. The takedown was the result of a tip from US law enforcement, Facebook said at the time.
Foriegn influence campaigns targeting Americans are nothing new, Wray noted Tuesday, but he said social media offers “incredible amplification” for disinformation campaigns run by America’s adversaries. The pages and accounts Facebook removed on the eve of the midterms were being followed by more than 600,000 users in the US.
“Russians are focused on sowing divisiveness and discord in this country and pitting us against each other and I think that part we see alive and well,” Wray warned.