William Evanina, counterintel chief, praises ‘unprecedented’ partnership of feds, social media firms

William R. Evanina, director of U.S. counterintelligence, said Wednesday that the federal government’s coordinated work with social media companies ahead of the 2020 election will provide a playbook for fighting foreign influence in the future.

“What we accomplished the past two years, but specifically in the last six-to-nine months as an integrated, holistic government effort in partnership with social media and tech firms is unprecedented,” Mr. Evanina said at an Aspen Institute event, “and I think it’s really going to be the model of the future moving forward, how we protect, not only just elections but how we mitigate malign foreign influence and how we drive continued protection of democracy.”

In the run-up to the 2020 election, federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies met with Big Tech executives to fight foreign influence operations on their platforms aimed at the election. Among the companies that met with federal officials were Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Pinterest, Reddit, Verizon and the Wikimedia Foundation, which hosts the crowdsourced online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Mr. Evanina said the governmental coordination across several different agencies — numbering in the double digits — and social media and technology companies mirrored the type of organized and coordinated response from the government after the 9/11 terrorist attacks nearly 20 years ago.

Mr. Evanina said the federal government’s recent work was the “first time” since 9/11 where he has seen the wide swath of agencies working together around the clock and around the globe to provide real-time information to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

“We did some really daring things the last couple [of] months, both publicly and non-publicly, and I think they’ve all paid off,” Mr. Evanina said.

Mr. Evanina said he thought more of the government’s work would become public in the future, but until it does he said he wanted to publicly thank the CIA, National Security Agency, and U.S. Cyber Command for their work around the world.

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