DHS Seeks Solutions to Track Foreign Disinformation Ahead of Presidential Election

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) is seeking to fill gaps in the Intelligence Community’s capability to track foreign influence activities targeting the November 2020 U.S. elections on social media platforms.  DHS I&A plans to award a contract in early August for up to three years to a contractor who can provide analytic technologies, products, and expert support services for detecting foreign influence activity primarily from Russia, China, and Iran through open source analysis of commercially-available public information.

“Currently there is a significant amount of foreign influence activity targeting U.S. 2020 elections on social media platforms, and the IC’s lack of capability and resources in this area result in this activity being left largely untracked,” according to the DHS solicitation, available here. The solicitation further notes that agencies building that expertise and tradecraft will not have them available in time to defense the 2020 general election.

To assist efforts to secure the election and counter disinformation more broadly, DHS is seeking access to proprietary platforms designed to review the content of a variety of social media services and identify likely foreign actors seeking to influence U.S. or allied audiences with covert or over “influence” campaigns, misinformation, or disinformation. DHS is expecting to gain analytic assessments of social media actors and networks focused on manipulating media to influence U.S. and allied audiences in areas of major public interest such as pandemic disease origin and response, participation in public campaigns such as the U.S. Census, and emerging issues significant public and government interest. Ultimately, the contractor will deliver bi-weekly snapshots of election and non-election related foreign influence social media trends.

At the same time DHS and the IC are trying to address foreign influence and interference in the election, social media giants like Facebook and Twitter have started to crack down on hate speech, disinformation, and posts that may incite violence, including labeling false information posted by President Trump and removing forums and accounts that violate the online platforms’ policies.

An article in The Washington Post on July 10 says that while Silicon Valley is starting to be less permissive toward groups that post hate speech, misinformation, and material intended to provoke a violent reaction, they are still too fearful of angering the Administration to impose wide-ranging policies.

“But the newfound aggressiveness in tackling such issues, however belated and partial, may create a social media landscape ahead of the November election that is less freewheeling — and less open to abusive language and false claims — than four years ago.”

Read more in the The Washington Post here.