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FBI continuously works to protect the American vote from outside influences

As we close in on the Florida primary and the general election, foreign influence remains a concern.

Our Safety & Security Specialist spoke to the FBI about how it’s working to protect your vote Monday.

Everyone wants their vote to count, whether by mail or in person. But the FBI warns there are forces out there trying to influence your decision.

“We face today a very real threat from foes who seek to undermine our elections through online foreign influence operations,” FBI Director Chris Wray said.

This has gone on for years, especially since the 2016 presidential election. Davis Christy runs the Fort Myers office of the FBI.

“Influence is taking place nationally,” Christy explained. “It’s also taking place here in Southwest Florida … It is a big concern.”

So the agency launched “Protected Voices” to help educate campaigns, companies and voters.

“The FBI’s role is to ensure that the elections aren’t infiltrated,” Christy said. “There are certain areas where we can open predicated investigations, and we’re monitoring those types of activities that are coming from these state actors to make sure they don’t violate certain federal laws.”

Much of this activity takes place on social media, where the bad guys launch disinformation campaigns using fake Facebook posts, tweets and more.

“They try to identify certain situations where there is a lot of public discourse,” Christy said. “For example, the current race situation nowadays.”

And, when those influencers attack, they make inflammatory posts or even alter videos.

“And then post it to make it look like this person did something very inflammatory,” Christy said.

Tommy Doyle, the supervisor of elections in Lee County, is confident in the steps his office has taken to keep voting safe, but still finds the foreign influence in our elections mind boggling.

“Iran wants to get rid of our democracy and our republic,” Doyle said. “Russia and china, they have their choice of presidents and are pushing hard to get those people elected.”

And the U.S. Government is pushing back to protect voters and protect our values.

The FBI says, if you spot one of those suspicious ads or videos, it’s best to report them to the social media platform, unless there is a threat. Then, call law enforcement.

“America’s elections are the foundation of our democracy,” Wray said.

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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