Director Laura Rosenberger and Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman address how democracies can engage in the information contest without playing autocrats’ game—the values and principles to guide a democratic approach, the steps to compete, and the ways democracies should structure themselves in their piece for The Washington Quarterly. How the contest is fought is vital to who wins.
Democracies should understand the challenge as a global information contest that encompasses the use or manipulation of information (data and content) itself; the architecture, or the systems, platforms, or companies that transmit it; and the governance frameworks, including the laws, standards, and norms for content, data, and technology. This contest is a key avenue for advancing one system of values over another, and it both reflects and affects the broader geopolitical competition between authoritarians and democracies. Therefore, democracies must engage in a manner that affirms, rather than degrades, the information arena. The focus of this paper is on the first dimension of this contest—the manipulation of information itself, primarily via digital means—but we place this analysis in the broader strategic context of the information contest. At present, democracies are not meaningfully preparing for this struggle.
This paper addresses how democracies can compete in this larger strategic contest without engaging in activities that advance the information model of state censorship and weaponization that authoritarian regimes want. It outlines the reasons why democracies need to engage in the information contest, the values and principles that should guide a democratic approach, the steps they should take to compete, and the ways in which democracies should structure themselves to effectively engage in this contest.