Our Takes

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will magnify and ease malign actors’ abilities to push false election narratives and breach electoral systems. Election workers should be equipped to counter these threats ahead of 2024. Senior Fellows Lindsay Gorman and David Levine offer recommendations to help election officials navigate this emerging threat landscape in ASD’s new AI Election Security Handbook.

South Korea’s experience with techno-economic statecraft holds lessons about the benefits and pitfalls of unilateral technology measures and the need for deeper allied coordination. The United States should pay attention, China Tech Analyst Dylan Welch writes for ASD.

Last year’s elections in Argentina underscore two lessons for the United States: election officials must develop effective crisis communication strategies and work with social media platforms to combat AI-generated disinformation, Senior Fellow David Levine writes in The Fulcrum.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week: 

  • Tucker Carlson in Moscow: Russian state media provided exhaustive and fawning coverage of former Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s visit to Moscow this week to interview Russian President Vladmir Putin. In total, monitored accounts and outlets mentioned Carlson over 370 times in the past week. Beyond paparazzi-style coverage of Carlson’s movements in Moscow and promotion of the upcoming interview, propagandists also shared comments from Elon Musk, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, and Alex Jones praising Carlson’s visit.
  • NATO’s Future: Monitored Russian accounts amplified reporting of European concerns about the future of the alliance should Donald Trump win the US presidency in 2024. Meanwhile, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that a clash with NATO would bring about a “proverbial apocalypse”, though he scoffed at recent NATO exercises, calling them “a convulsion of flabby Western muscles”.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week:

  • Bill Burns: PRC diplomats and state media denounced an article written by CIA Director William Burns, in which he touted his agency’s increased focus on the PRC. On Facebook and Instagram, the PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs sarcastically thanked Burns for “reminding” them that “US spies are everywhere”. On YouTube, CGTN ran a 13-minute segment on “America’s spy program”, while its affiliate T-House interviewed US anti-imperialist Ben Norton, who claimed that most Americans disapprove of the CIA’s focus.
  • Lionel Messi: Footballer Lionel Messi caused a stir by staying on the bench for a friendly match in Hong Kong on Monday. Many PRC state media outlets relayed the disappointment, disapproval, and “frustration” of Chinese fans. The ultra-nationalist Global Times thought that the Argentinian “should be embarrassed” for his no-show, while its former editor-in-chief bitterly contrasted Messi’s refusal to shake hands with Hong Kong officials and participate in the friendly with his ability to “smile [and] run freely” at another friendly match in Japan a few days later.   

Iranian diplomats and state media focused on two main narratives this week: 

  • US Strikes: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian condemned US strikes against Iran-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria, and state media warned the United States and United Kingdom “not to test the wrath of regional nations”. Iranian media also amplified criticisms of the strikes by Iraqi officials.
  • Anti-Semitism: Chris Williamson, co-host of Press TV’s program “Palestine Declassified,” gloated on Facebook about the favorable verdict received by his co-host David Miller before an employment tribunal in the United Kingdom. The tribunal found that Miller had been wrongly terminated from his position at Bristol University over accusations of antisemitism. Miller framed the verdict as a “victory for pro-Palestine campaigners”. 

News and Commentary

Russian FSB officer attended meeting with Italy’s League party members: An officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) who focused on disrupting democracies abroad was a participant in an infamous 2018 meeting in which Kremlin-connected figures and top members of the Italian far-right League party discussed laundering $65 million in support to the League, according to an investigation from The Insider and Italian newspaper Domani. Co-Managing Director David Salvo told the Dispatch, “Using money to create leverage and gain influence over political parties, officials, and even civil society entities is a well-honed tactic the Russian government uses beyond its borders. New details about this case involving the League party in Italy confirmed what we’ve long suspected here—that Russian intelligence served as a vector for malign influence. In many cases involving malign finance, obfuscating ties to the Russian state, including the security and intelligence services, is a critical tactic for undermining democracy in third countries. See ASD’s Authoritarian Interference Tracker for more examples of this type of interference.”

Georgia restricts county’s access to voter registration system after cyberattack: Georgia’s secretary of state restricted access to Fulton County’s state voter registration system as a precaution; the county continues to struggle in its recovery from a cyberattack last month, fueling concerns that the attack is hindering the county’s ability to administer Georgia’s fast-approaching presidential primary. Senior Fellow David Levine said, “Last month’s cyberattack could certainly complicate Fulton County’s preparations for the primary on March 12th, but there is no reason to believe that the attack will result in large-scale disruptions or prevent voting. As federal agencies have previously noted, election officials, including those in Fulton County, use a variety of technological, physical and procedural controls to reduce the likelihood of malicious cyber activity adversely impacting the elections process. It’s worth underscoring that the secretary’s actions appear consistent with best practices considering the security-related circumstances of the situation. It’s also worth remembering just how much the county has improved its elections operations over the past few years. How Fulton County recovers from last month’s cyberattack is certainly worth keeping an eye on between now and the primary, but there isn’t anything thus far that should raise significant concerns about the county or state’s ability to successfully carry out the primary.”

In Case You Missed It

  • The US Federal Communications Commission ruled that the use of AI-generated voices in robocalls is illegal, citing recent efforts to mislead voters and scam civilians.
  • PRC-linked hackers have had access to some US critical infrastructure systems, such as transportation, for “at least five years”, US security agencies concluded in a new report.
  • Meta announced plans to start labeling posts identified as AI-generated on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads, days after the company’s oversight board called Meta’s manipulated media policy “incoherent”.
  • Bulgaria arrested two employees of top security agencies for allegedly spying for Russia; one reportedly shared sensitive information about EU agencies and other EU countries.
  • TikTok’s PRC-based parent company, ByteDance, spent 77% more on its US lobbying activities in 2023 than the previous year, amid rising US scrutiny of the platform.
  • The Biden administration will impose visa restrictions on foreign individuals who use spyware to target journalists, activists, and other members of civil society.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“We have never seen something so close to an election before and with such a blatant attempt to mislead voters. We don’t want this to be the first of many.”

—New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said at a press conference on February 6 in response to developments in the state’s criminal investigation into a robocall featuring AI-generated audio of what sounded like US President Joe Biden telling Democratic primary voters not to cast their ballots.


The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.