COVID-19 disinformation likely to target Canadian voters in next election, agency warns

The federal cybersecurity agency is warning Canadians are likely to run into some effort by foreign actors to influence or interfere with their right to vote in a possible looming election, including COVID-19 disinformation campaigns.

The Communications Security Establishment also says in a new report that holding a federal election during the COVID-19 pandemic could increase the threat of foreign interference.

“While CSE assesses that Canada remains a low-priority target for electoral interference relative to other countries, Canada is not entirely immune. It is very likely that Canadian voters will encounter some form of cyber interference ahead of, and during, the next general election,” the agency said in a press release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created new narratives for threat actors to exploit to undermine the perceived legitimacy of an election or weaken trust in democratic institutions. For example, threat actors can exploit pervasive falsehoods on social media to covertly disseminate disinformation.”

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But it has confidence in Elections Canada’s plans to protect the electoral process, and says Canada’s democratic processes remain a low-priority target compared to other countries.

The report comes as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is widely expected to kick off a federal election this summer or fall, sending Canadians to the polls for the second time since 2019.

The agency says the majority of attacks and threats to democratic processes in Canada and other parts of the world come from foreign governments, with most perpetrated by Russia, China and Iran.

It also says that voters are more often targeted than political parties and actual elections, likely because foreign actors believe it is easier and more effective.

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© 2021 The Canadian Press

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