Today we expanded the Authoritarian Interference Tracker to include activities by China’s government to undermine democratic states and institutions in the transatlantic community since 2000. In addition to tracking acts of Russian interference, the tool now catalogues 165 examples of interference from China in more than 20 countries using five tools: information manipulation, cyber operations, malign finance, civil society subversion, and economic coercion. China Analyst Bryce Barros and Research Assistant Etienne Soula explain the importance of bringing Chinese interference to light in an ASD blog post.
Young professionals: Join GMF Berlin’s Young Transatlantic Network of Future Leaders for a discussion on how AI can change the future, featuring experts including ASD’s Lindsay Gorman, on Wednesday, February 10 at 12:00-12:45 p.m. EST / 6:00-6:45 p.m. CET. Register here.
Congratulations to GMF Senior Fellow and former ASD Co-Director Jamie Fly for being re-named president and CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty! We recently spoke to Jamie about RFE/RL’s operations in Russia, how authoritarians spread disinformation to undermine the truth, and the importance of a free press to democracy. Read the Q&A here.
NewsFront—a Kremlin-linked “news site” whose links Facebook and Twitter banned from being shared last year—created a network of “mirror sites” to skirt link-sharing bans and target audiences around the world, Rossella Cerulli and Non-Resident Fellow Clint Watts find in a new investigation published by ASD.
China’s “wolf warrior” diplomats and state media launched a coordinated campaign against a British measure that provides British national overseas passport holders with a path to citizenship, China Analyst Bryce Barros and Research Assistant Etienne Soula write in a Hamilton analysis blog post.
President Biden should establish a bipartisan presidential commission to identify issues that ail our elections and come up with solutions that are likely to garner broad support, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine and the Center for Democracy and Technology’s William T. Adler write in New York Daily News. Read their blueprint for a Presidential Commission on Election Resilience and Trust here.
Hamilton 2.0 Analysis
Last week, Russian state media and diplomats celebrated the results of a peer-reviewed study by a U.K. medical journal, which found that the Sputnik V vaccine has a 91.6 percent efficacy rate. Both state media and diplomats seized on the occasion to criticize previous Western skepticism of the vaccine. Russian state media and officials also reiterated claims that jailed Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny is supported from abroad and criticized Western “foreign interference” in his fraud trial. Finally, Russian accounts targeted Big Tech, claiming it helped organize pro-Navalny protests.
Chinese diplomats and state media outlets last week continued to bash the U.K.’s decision to grant Hong Kong holders of the British Nationals Overseas passport a pathway to full British citizenship. There was also uproar over the U.K.’s decision to strip Chinese state media outlet CGTN of its broadcast license. Escalating the media feud, Chinese diplomats and government officials rallied against a BBC article that outlined violence against Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Outside of U.K. criticism, Chinese accounts also defended Myanmar’s military after it ousted a democratically elected government last week.
Ayatollah Khamenei was responsible for all ten of the most engaged-with tweets from Iranian regime-linked accounts on the dashboard last week. One tweet claiming that “It is the beginning of the post-American era” was translated across multiple Khamenei-linked accounts and generated a particularly high rate of engagement. Iranian accounts also continued to promote a unified message that Iran will return to compliance with the nuclear deal (JCPOA) only after the United States has done the same.
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News and Commentary
President Biden calls for values-based strategy to combat authoritarian advances: On February 4, President Joe Biden delivered the first foreign policy speech of his administration, in which he emphasized the need to counter authoritarian aggression by building resilience into U.S. democratic institutions and reinvigorating democratic alliances. President Biden named China as the United States’ “most serious competitor” and underscored the need to combat Beijing’s attacks on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance. He also assured that the United States will “raise the cost on Russia” for election interference, cyberattacks, and suppressing dissent. Moreover, Biden said he plans to launch an “urgent initiative” to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and intends to hold a Summit of Democracies in order to advance habits of cooperation among U.S. democratic allies and partners. The wide-ranging speech also announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen and a series of policies designed to restore U.S. leadership on the world stage. An ASD task force report argues that the United States can outcompete authoritarian regimes across the political, economic, technological, and information domains by leveraging the advantages of open, transparent, and responsive governance.
U.K. revokes Chinese broadcaster’s license, citing ties to Communist Party: On February 4, the U.K.’s Office of Communications pulled the broadcasting license for China Global Television Network (CGTN) after an investigation concluded the channel “is ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.” CGTN’s party affiliation violated U.K. laws that require outlets to have editorial oversight of their content and operate independent of political bodies, according to the Office of Communications, which previously found that CGTN repeatedly violated impartiality standards. U.K. regulators are also conducting three separate investigations focused on fairness and privacy concerns around the Chinese media entity and said they are considering sanctions. China’s foreign ministry criticized the decision to revoke CGTN’s license and accused the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) of publishing “fake news” in its coronavirus coverage. Chinese officials also heavily criticized a February 3 report by the BBC showing that Uyghur women in Chinese internment camps were being systematically raped and tortured. ASD China Analyst Bryce Barros and Research Assistant Etienne Soula detail how China’s propaganda apparatus has launched a coordinated campaign to malign the U.K. government over recent disagreements.
In Case You Missed It
- Two hacking groups reportedly tied to the Iranian government are conducting an espionage campaign against dissidents, academics, and government officials in Europe and the United States, researchers at the cybersecurity firm Check Point found.
- Chinese state-backed hackers are suspected of exploiting a flaw in SolarWinds’ software to break into the U.S. National Finance Center, which handles the payroll of multiple federal agencies involved in national security.
- A pro-Chinese propaganda network has been amplified by prominent voices around the world despite multiple takedown attempts by social media platforms.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy banned three pro-Russian television channels that Kyiv accused of spreading disinformation.
- The U.S. House Armed Services Committee established a new subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems.
- Google announced it will offer state-level political campaigns free cybersecurity training and access to two-factor authentication keys for email.
- A bipartisan bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate that aims to combat global kleptocracy and promote good governance.
- Germany, Poland, and Sweden each expelled a Russian diplomat in retaliation for Moscow’s expulsion of diplomats from the three countries for monitoring protests in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
- The Chinese government blocked the audio-only social media app Clubhouse after the platform gained popularity as a space for Chinese citizens to freely discuss political issues.
ASD in the News
Quote of the Week
“We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again, not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. American leadership must meet this new moment of advancing authoritarianism, including the growing ambitions of China to rival the United States and the determination of Russia to damage and disrupt our democracy.”
- President Joe Biden said during a speech on February 4.