WASHINGTON — The protests across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd have become amplified across social media. Now, officials say foreign adversaries may be trying to utilize those platforms to provoke violence, spread disinformation, and further divide Americans.

What You Need To Know

  • Lawmakers warn against possible foreign adversaries piggybacking off protests

  • Sen. Marco Rubio says foreign actors could be trying to divide Americans

  • Lawmakers to Americans: "Do your homework" on social media

“This is going to be an ongoing challenge for us,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee in an interview with Spectrum News.

As Americans take to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd, officials warn foreign actors are weaponizing social media.

“What our foreign adversaries do is they exploit our existing divisions. They don’t create them,” Rubio explained.

Rubio said he’s seen posts on nationwide demonstrations linked to at least three foreign adversaries. Experts believe state-backed media outlets have piggybacked onto hashtags linked to George Floyd to push divisive messages.

“We have ample evidence of the Russians, Iranians, the Chinese. They will promote a Black Lives Matter rally at the same time they promote a White Supremacy rally,” said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Florida 6th District).

"They don’t really care about the issues, all they care about is keeping Americans divided,” Waltz added.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are also concerned. Rep. Val Demings (D-Florida 10th District) and Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi sent John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence a letter, urging him to detail his plans to prevent foreign actors from targeting current racial tensions.

“The underlying issues that led to these continued protests are based on years of systemic racism and concerns that originated from American policies and American actors. But we do not want foreign state actors to exploit the injustice in America as we try to heal these wounds,” the lawmakers write in the letter

This isn’t new. Intelligence reports widely confirm the Russian government exploited tensions in the U.S. in an effort to influence the 2016 election. Experts warn they could be ramping up again ahead of this upcoming election.

“Take that extra step and do your homework,” Waltz said.

For now, lawmakers hope social media users will be a bit more skeptical about content they see on social media.

“Don’t allow yourself to be inflamed by social media. Don’t allow yourself to govern what you believe and everything you do by what you read on Twitter five minutes ago.” Rubio said.