Homeland Preparedness News: Reps. Spanberger, Katko introduce bill to protect against foreign influence in elections


U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced legislation to protect against foreign influence designed to weaken the U.S. electoral system.

A statement from the U.S. Intelligence Community reported in August that “foreign states will continue to use covert and overt influence measures in their attempts to sway U.S. voters’ preferences and perspectives, shift U.S. policies, increase discord in the United States, and undermine the American people’s confidence in our democratic process.” The bill’s sponsors said that Russia, China, and Iran are among the most active and increasingly assertive in their efforts.

Political ads, issue advocacy, and content funded or directed by a foreign principal and intended to influence the U.S. government or the American people must be disclosed to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), However, this often does not extend to social media, and foreign agents from abroad often evade disclaimer requirements.

This new bill, the Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act, would require disclaimers attributing political content to a foreign principal be embedded on the face of a social media post itself. The disclaimers would remain with a post whenever the post is subsequently shared. It would also clarify that these disclaimer requirements apply to the internet and any political communications directed at the United States.

“As a former CIA officer, I know that our nation is always under siege from foreign adversaries who seek to sow division and spread false information. However, social media networks remain especially vulnerable to foreign campaigns. Disclaimers on social media posts are often non-existent, particularly when content is shared or linked. This means that social media can serve as an ideal rumor mill for disinformation, as nefarious actors are able to leverage the rapid transfer of information from person to person,” Spanberger said. “The FADE Act would help stop foreign adversaries like China and Russia from disseminating propaganda across Americans’ social media feeds — and I’d like to thank Congressman Katko for joining this effort to protect the integrity of our elections.”

To ensure enforcement, the FADE Act would require DOJ to notify online platforms if a foreign agent does not meet disclaimer requirements for posts on their platforms and require the platform to remove the materials. The platform would also have to use reasonable efforts to inform recipients of the materials that the information they saw was disseminated by a foreign agent.

“Combating foreign election interference needs to be a bipartisan issue. Ahead of November’s Election, we need to prevent our nation’s enemies from using social media as a vehicle to deploy disinformation. With this in mind, I’m joining Rep. Spanberger in introducing the Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act,” Katko said. “This legislation would establish enforceable tools to ensure visible disclaimers are included in political posts from foreign agents.”


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