The FBI is reportedly investigating the possibility that there has been "foreign influence or foreign interference" in the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests across the country. On Wednesday, FBI director Christopher Wray gave an interview with Fox News, saying that the FBI is tracing trends on social media to see if they came from suspicious sources. Wray referenced other foreign disinformation campaigns in the U.S., without specifying further.
"We have certainly seen in the past a variety of foreign adversaries looking to amplify controversy in this country and they use state media, they use social media, some of that is through propaganda, some of that is through disinformation, some that is through just fake information," Wray said. "And we are looking carefully at the prospect of foreign influence or foreign interference in all the protest activities [that's] occurred over the last few weeks." According to Wray, the FBI is specifically looking for the sources of property destruction, rioting and violence which has sprung up within many of the protests.
"The violence that occurred during the protest over the past few weeks is driven by a variety of different motivations and ideologies, it's not all the work of any single ideology movement or group," he went on. "We certainly have a number of active ongoing investigations into violent anarchist extremists."
Wray confirmed that the FBI is taking a look at people who have self-identified as "Antifa," a label that President Donald Trump and many other are fixated on. However, intelligence experts have said that Antifa is not so much an organization as a self-applied label — short for "anti-fascist" — with no real unifying infrastructure.
So far, nothing concrete about foreign influence on protests in the U.S. has been reported publicly. Last month, national security adviser Robert O'Brien gave an interview with ABC News, highlighting Russian activist groups' apparent interest in what was happening in the U.S., as well as posts from Zimbabwe and Iran. He also pointed out messages on Chinese social media apps where users appeared to be gloating about the "chaos" they were seeing.
Still, if any foreign actors set out to intentionally stoke discord in the U.S., it is incredibly difficult for intelligence agents to measure how effective those efforts are. Social media is a chaotic ideological ecosystem to begin with, and getting an idea to take off is not easy — let alone ensuring that that idea evolves into the desired real-world action. According to a report by CNN, some experts consider this kind of foreign intervention as nothing more than an "additive" to existent civil unrest.