U.S.

Americans Are More Vulnerable to Foreign Propaganda, Senator Warns

The threat against U.S. elections by Russia and other foreign powers is far greater today than it was in 2020, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Tuesday.

Senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat who leads the committee, said the danger had grown for multiple reasons: Adversarial countries have become more adept at spreading disinformation, Americans are more vulnerable to propaganda, communication between the government and social media companies has become more difficult and artificial intelligence is giving foreign powers new abilities.

The Intelligence Committee was set to hold a hearing on election threats on Wednesday, but it was postponed on Tuesday to allow the Senate to consider of the articles of impeachment against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. Mr. Warner said he hoped to reschedule the hearing quickly.

A bipartisan report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the final volume of which was released in 2020, chronicled extensive efforts by Russians to influence American politics in 2016. Since then, Russia has only honed its ability to shape debates in Europe and the United States, while people everywhere have become more vulnerable, Mr. Warner said.

For a time, Americans and Europeans were becoming more aware of disinformation or influence operations by Russia or other foreign powers. But today, conspiracy theories seem to be gaining more traction.

“With polarization in this country, and the lack of faith in institutions, people will believe anything or not believe things that come from what used to be viewed as trusted sources of information,” Mr. Warner said. “So there’s a much greater willingness to accept conspiracy theories.”

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