Our Take

European reliance on Russian natural gas serves as a cautionary tale of what could come if Europe becomes dependent on China for 5G technology—although the risks this time around are higher, and Europe has significantly less time to address them, Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina writes in a new report.

China’s engagement with Europe has increased significantly over the past decade. In a new feature video, Director Laura Rosenberger and Julie Smith lay out China’s European toolkit and explain what Europe can do to address this threat and protect democracy.

Local and state election officials are the backbone of the election process and should be the first source voters turn to for information. Junior Fellow Jennifer Gurev and Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine explain three things you should know about election officials in an ASD blog post.

State and local election officials can take five steps to make future elections even more secure, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine writes in The Fulcrum.

In partnership with the Government of Canada and Microsoft, we hosted six workshops focused on preventing interference in the electoral process in support of Principle 3 of the Paris Call. We outline some of the key observations from these workshops in a collection of worksheets.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Last week, the majority of  Russian state media’s U.S. election coverage continued to feature familiar themes, including claims of fraud, criticism of “mainstream media” coverage of the election, and condemnation of social media platforms for election-related issues. Russian state media also produced fairly limited coverage of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine announcement, in which they warned that much is unknown about the vaccine, relayed Russian officials’ claims that the Sputnik V vaccine is just as—or more—effective than the new vaccine, and questioned the logistics of vaccine distribution plans in the United States. After relatively sparse coverage of U.S. politics during the election, Chinese state media dedicated significant space to the U.S. elections last week, with nine of the ten most-shared Chinese state media stories on Facebook covering the election. China’s Foreign Ministry congratulated president-elect Biden on November 13, sparking a wave of congratulatory tweets from several embassies and diplomats. Iranian state media similarly acknowledged Biden as the winner of the election last week, while continuing to deride U.S. democracy and its institutions as chaotic, broken, and illegitimate.

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News and Commentary

2020 general election was “most secure” in U.S. history, officials say: The presidential election was the “most secure in American history,” and “there was no evidence” that any voting systems were compromised, according to a joint statement distributed on November 12 by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The statement was made by the executive committee of the Election Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Council, which together represent a coalition of federal, state, and local election officials, along with voting equipment providers. The statement came amid a series of unsubstantiated claims, including from President Trump, that widespread voter fraud impacted the outcome of the election. Election officials have said that these unverified assertions and political pressure on election officials could make the United States less secure against foreign interference as the election process continues with post-election audits in numerous states, certification processes across the country, and two Senate run-off elections in Georgia. ASD Director Laura Rosenberger has noted that domestic disinformation about the integrity of the election could provide fodder to foreign interference efforts designed to undermine public confidence in the U.S. democratic system as a whole. (CISA, The New York Times, Associated Press, The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs)

United States bans investments in companies linked to Chinese military: On November 12, the Trump administration issued an executive order to prohibit U.S. companies and individuals from investing in 31 Chinese companies that the Defense Department previously identified as being connected to China’s People’s Liberation Army. The order, which will go into effect on January 11, could impact several of China’s largest companies, including China Mobile Ltd. and China Telecom Corp Ltd., and will cut across the aerospace, technology, shipbuilding, and construction sectors. The order gives American investors, who make up an estimated two percent of the value of these companies, until November 2021 to divest. ASD Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman and former China Analyst Matt Schrader have argued that U.S. investments in Chinese companies need to be screened to ensure that they are not supplying or otherwise supporting China’s surveillance technologies. (White House, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy)

In Case You Missed It

  • Russian and North Korean hackers have targeted seven companies researching coronavirus vaccines and treatments, according to Microsoft.
  • The European Union agreed to restrict the sale of cyber surveillance technologies to repressive regimes.
  • The U.S. Commerce Department delayed the ban of Chinese video-sharing app TikTok from U.S. app stores, giving its Beijing-based parent company ByteDance more time to divest the app.
  • Facebook and Google separately announced that they will continue to ban political ads for the next several weeks in an attempt to limit the spread of misinformation about election results.
  • Twitter stated that it has labeled approximately 300,000 tweets for containing election-related content that was disputed or misleading.
  • China’s third-largest video surveillance manufacturer has been producing software that targets and tracks members of the systematically oppressed Uyghur population in the country.
  • Australia has launched a public awareness campaign to warn that foreign spies may be using social media to identify and recruit Australians with access to sensitive information.
  • China forced the ousting of four pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong, prompting members of the pro-democracy opposition party to declare that they will resign en masse.
  • The United Kingdom has brought forward a bill that would give the government more power to investigate the security risks of foreign investments.

ASD in the News

How Do Americans Want to Engage the World?, War on the Rocks “Net Assessment.” Hosted by Co-Director Zack Cooper

Follow the Money, “The Power Vertical.” Interview with Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph

The Cybersecurity 202: The Next Big Disinformation Fight Is ComingOver Coronavirus Vaccines, The Washington Post. Comments from Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts

Biden’s Path Back to Iran Nuclear Deal Won’t Be Easy or Fast, Bloomberg. Comments from Middle East Fellow Ariane Tabatabai

The Cybersecurity 202: A Biden administration could mean a reset in the U.S. war on TikTok, The Washington Post. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

Parler’s post-election popularity sparks misinformation concerns, The Hill. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Conservative Social Media Platform Now Most-Downloaded App in US, WLVT. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

The EU-US Tech Front Against China and Huawei, Formiche. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

Байден – новый президент США. Как отреагировал мир (Biden Is the New President of the United States. How the World Reacted), DOM TV Channel. Interview with Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Quote of the Week

“While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too. When you have questions, turn to elections officials as trusted voices as they administer elections.”

–       Joint statement from the Elections Infrastructure Government Coordinating Council and the Election Infrastructure Sector Coordinating Executive Committees

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