CISA’s Countering Foreign Influence Task Force (CFITF) is charged with building national resilience to foreign influence activities. The CFITF does this by helping the American people and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stakeholders understand the scope and scale of influence activities targeting elections and critical infrastructure, and by enabling them to take actions to mitigate risks associated with foreign influence operations.
October 23: Today, CISA released Real Fake—a graphic novel that communicates the dangers and risks associated with dis- and misinformation campaigns. The plot shows how threat actors capitalize on political and social issues (especially around election cycles) to plant doubt in the minds of targeted audiences and steer their opinion.
- Download/share the Real Fake graphic novel and transcript.
CFI Task Force Overview
Established in May 2018, the CFITF, led by CISA’s National Risk Management Center (NRMC), works in close coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Foreign Influence Task Force—the government lead on foreign influence. The CFITF is charged with helping the American people understand the risks from foreign influence operations and how they can play a role in reducing the impact of foreign influence on their organizations and communities. As part of this effort, the CFITF works with social media companies, academia, international partners and the interagency on a variety of projects to build resilience against foreign influence operations.
The foremost principle guiding the CFITF is protection of privacy, free speech, and civil liberties. To that end, CFTITF closely consults with the DHS Privacy Office and DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on all of the Task Force’s activities.
The second guiding principle of the Task Force is collaboration; In addition to civil society groups, researchers and state and local government officials, the CFITF works in close collaboration with the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Defense, and other agencies across the federal government. Our departments’ respective roles in recognizing, understanding, and helping manage the threat and dangers of foreign influence on the American people are mutually supportive, and it is essential that we remain coordinated and cohesive when we engage stakeholders.
What is Foreign Influence?
Misinformation, malinformation, and disinformation make up what CISA defines as “information activities.” When this type of content is released by foreign actors, it can be referred to as foreign influence.
- Misinformation is false, but not created or shared with the intention of causing harm.
- Malinformation is based on fact, but used out of context to mislead, harm, or manipulate.
- Disinformation is deliberately created to mislead, harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country.
Foreign actors and domestic extremist groups use these campaigns to cause chaos, confusion, and division. These malign actors are seeking to interfere with and undermine our democratic institutions and national cohesiveness. The reports provided at the bottom of this page provide examples and more information about foreign influence activities.
The CFITF’s plan for building national resilience through public awareness and engagement is focused on engaging three categories of stakeholders to enable a whole-of-society approach:
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – The CFITF engages SMEs to enhance our understanding of the threat and how to mitigate the impact of foreign influence operations, to include how best to message to the public. SMEs include researchers, think tanks, and marketing/advertising experts.
- Trusted Voices – The federal government cannot solve the foreign influence problem on its own. We need both trusted voices and those that can amplify resilience messaging. Trusted voices include state and local government officials, community leaders, and associations. The engagement with trusted voices helps the CFITF reach communities targeted by previous foreign interference campaigns.
- American Public – In addition to working with Trusted Voices, the CFITF develops informational products and tools for use by the American people. Each of us has the power to stop foreign influence operations. The CFITF is focused on helping all Americans understand how bad actors are targeting them and what they can do to ensure those actors are not successfully.
Bridging Election Stakeholders and Social Media
The CFITF also serves as a switchboard for routing disinformation concerns to appropriate social media platforms and law enforcement. This activity began in 2018 supporting state and local election officials with respect to disinformation about the time, place, and manner of voting. For the 2020 election, DHS plans to expand the breadth of reporting to include other state and local officials and more social media platforms. This activity leverages the rapport the CFITF has with the social media platforms, enabling shared situational awareness of this activity.
Foreign Influence and COVID-19
As COVID-19 spread around the globe, mis-, dis-, and malinformation spread as well. Foreign influence activities sought to undermine public confidence and sow confusion. COVID-19 demonstrated that a rapidly evolving event creates opportunities for adversaries to act maliciously. It also shows that rapid evolution of accurate information makes older, dated information a potential catalyst of confusion and distrust as well.
U.S. Government Reading
- U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Report
- Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller
- U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Elections
- Volume 1: Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure With Additional Views
- Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media
- Volume 3: U.S. Government Response to Russian Activities
- Volume 4: Review Of The Intelligence Community Assessment
- Volume 4 (Additional declassification version): Review Of The Intelligence Community Assessment
- Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities
- United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Department of Justice
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence
These resources are provided "as is" for informational purposes only. DHS does not provide warranties of any kind regarding this information, nor does it endorse any commercial product, service, or subjects of analysis. Any references to specific commercial products, processes, or services by service mark, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by DHS.
- 10 Types of Mis-and Disinformation Infographic
- 12 Ways to Spot a Bot
- Countering Adversary Threats to Democratic Institutions: An Expert Report
- Countering Russian Social Media Influence
- Debunking Handbook and Infographic
- How Democracies Can Defend Against Disinformation
- How to Combat Fake News and Disinformation
- How to Spot False News Infographic
- Information Disorder: An interdisciplinary Framework
- Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Domestic Energy Markets by Exploiting Social Media
- Russian Firehouse of Falsehood Propaganda
- The Kremlin Playbook: Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe
- The State and Local Election Counter Information Operations Playbook
- Trumpet of Information: 5 Lessons for Reporting in an Age of Discrimination
- Whose Truth? Sovereignty, Disinformation, and Winning the Battle of Trust
Interested in collaborating with the Countering Foreign Influence Task Force or in more information? Email CFITF@cisa.dhs.gov.