Task Force on Digital Citizenship Leaders Applaud Measure to Combat Foreign Disinformation Campaigns Included in NDAA
Washington, December 8, 2020
Washington, DC -- Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and members of the Congressional Task Force on Digital Citizenship released the following statement as the House of Representatives approved the bipartisan Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes an amendment requiring U.S. Intelligence agencies to review and report on foreign disinformation campaigns targeting federal elections. The amendment was offered by Rep. Wexton and cosponsored by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Yvette Clarke (D-NY).
“2020 has shown us that our foreign adversaries will continue to wage wide-ranging disinformation and influence campaigns aimed at sowing division and distrust in U.S. elections. Since 2016, their attacks have become even more brazen and sophisticated, and continue to rely on social media platforms, which provide an inexpensive avenue with few information safeguards,” said the Members. “To combat this national security threat, policymakers must better understand how these campaigns continue to evolve online and how the policies of social media companies allow for millions of Americans to be duped by malign foreign influences. The creation of this standing report and briefing demonstrate a bipartisan commitment in Congress to take action. We are proud that the Task Force on Digital Citizenship was successful in securing this important priority in our annual defense authorization.”
The report and subsequent briefing would be conducted by the Director of the newly established Office of Social Media Data and Threat Analysis Center and delivered to Congress before each federal election. They would show how malign foreign influence campaigns spread false information online and analyze the amplification of such falsehoods by bot networks, social media users, and algorithms to better understand how it is circulated. They would also look at the evolving trends of the type of media circulated, such as deepfake videos or other manipulated content, and the steps taken to cooperate with social media companies to mitigate these threats.
Wexton launched the Task Force on Digital Citizenship in April 2020, with Reps. Beyer and Clarke as founding members, to focus policy efforts on countering online harms by equipping Americans with tools to be resilient against online threats and falsehoods.
More Americans are on social media than ever before, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say disinformation, too, has surged online, underscoring the need to better understand and confront the bad actors behind these campaigns, as this report and briefing seek to do. In 2020, adversaries like Russia, Iran, and China sought to undermine trust in government and the electoral process on many different fronts -- including promoting false information about casting ballots and election integrity, pushing QAnon conspiracies about a U.S. "deep state", and spreading panic and lies about America's COVID-19 response.
The full text of the provision requiring a standing report and briefing can be found here.