Join GMF and the Slovak Embassy in the United States on Thursday, February 25 for a discussion on Slovak and U.S. efforts to strengthen democracy and combat corruption and kleptocracy with Slovakian Justice Minister Mária Kolíková, GMF President Karen Donfried, ASD Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph, and GMF Director of Democracy Initiatives Jonathan Katz. Register here.

Our Take

Congress should strengthen counterintelligence measures and implement campaign finance reforms to codify norms against U.S. participation in foreign election interference, Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph and Head of Policy and Research Jessica Brandt write in Just Security.

Within the first 100 days of the Biden administration, the U.S. Treasury Department should publish its first-ever National Corruption Risk Assessment about the financial networks of oligarchs and kleptocrats in the United States, reviewing case studies and methods to assess vulnerabilities and risk, Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph writes in an ASD blog post.

Follow ASD on Twitter for more quick takes @SecureDemocracy.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian state media highlighted the energy crisis in Texas last week as evidence that the United States is incapable of protecting its citizens and amplified viral politically polarized responses to the disaster. Several RT articles suggested that the United States should focus on its domestic issues rather than potential threats from Russia. Russian state media and diplomats also continued to highlight positive developments related to Russian vaccines, such as the announcement of a third Russian vaccine.

On the Chinese network monitored on Hamilton 2.0, seven of the ten most retweeted tweets promoted Chinese-Serbian relations after Serbian President Vučić embraced the 17+1 forum. Meanwhile, Chinese state media took aim at India by promoting images, videos, and celebrations surrounding last summer’s border clash between India and China. Finally, there were several examples of Chinese state media and diplomats framing the Texas energy crisis as a violation of human rights.

On the Iran dashboard, the Iran nuclear agreement again dominated conversation, with #JCPOA appearing in more tweets than the next two most popular hashtags combined. Much of the content seemed to be aimed at softening the ground for Iran’s announcement last Sunday that it would be limiting IAEA inspections of its nuclear sites. As usual, a prominent narrative was that Iran would not return to the negotiating table unless sanctions are removed.

Continue reading here.

News and Commentary

Facebook restores news content for Australian users after blocking access: On February 22, Facebook announced it would restore the sharing and viewing of news in Australia after negotiating favorable changes to proposed legislation that will require Facebook and Google to pay publishers for their content. The amended legislation would give Facebook and Google more time to strike deals with news publishers and offer exemptions if the tech platforms “made a significant contribution to the sustainability of the Australian news industry” through commercial agreements with publishers. These changes come five days after Facebook blocked news in Australia in response to the original version of the bill. Last week, Google reached licensing deals with several media companies, walking back initial threats to shut down its search engine in the country. Meanwhile, several countries are considering legislation that would require tech platforms to compensate news publishers. An ASD task force report recommends that democracies support the free press by investing in local and investigative journalism and supporting independent media in closed spaces abroad.

Growing number of countries warn of Chinese influence efforts: On February 17, the Estonian Foreign Intelligence Service released its annual report, which warned that China is seeking to divide the United States from Europe and increase its influence on the world stage through propaganda and disinformation, technological dominance, economic leverage, and the recruitment of Western elites. Meanwhile, Dutch, Finnish, and Canadian intelligence services issued similar warnings about the threats of Chinese cyberespionage, Chinese state-linked telecom companies, and Beijing’s intimidation of Chinese diaspora groups. ASD’s Authoritarian Interference Tracker includes over 160 examples of Chinese interference in democracies through information manipulation, cyber operations, malign finance, economic coercion, and civil society subversion. ASD China Analyst Bryce Barros and Research Assistant Etienne Soula argue that China’s interference tactics are interconnected and complementary efforts to undermine democratic values and institutions. 

In Case You Missed It

  • President Joe Biden called for democratic countries to establish rules and norms to govern emerging technologies and behavior in cyberspace.
  • China-linked hackers gained access to and used a hacking tool developed by the U.S. National Security Agency to exploit Microsoft software between 2014 and 2017.
  • The Department of Homeland Security announced it will increase cybersecurity spending and evaluate what resources are needed to secure critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.
  • Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and other tech companies have come together to develop industry standards on managing harmful content and behavior online.
  • Denmark published a new tech diplomacy strategy centered on advancing more responsible and democratic technology.
  • President Biden announced that he will take executive action to address shortcomings in federal cyber defense in light of the SolarWinds hack.
  • At least half of London’s boroughs have purchased and used surveillance systems made by Chinese companies linked to the repression of Uighurs.

ASD in the News

Biden Faces Decision On Gas Pipeline From Russia That Could Alienate Germany, NPR. Interview with Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina

Is Navalny’s Wife Taking Up His Baton?, Foreign Policy. Comments from Media and Digital Disinformation Fellow Bret Schafer

Balance of Power: Energy Crisis, NY Mayor Race, Bloomberg. Interview with Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

Biden confronts China in Europe, courting democracies, Politico. Comments from China Analyst Bryce Barros

Building a Transatlantic Approach on China, Atlantic Forum. Virtual event with Program Manager and Fellow Nad’a Kovalčíková

Le interferenze cinesi sono qui, anche in Italia. Report Gmf, Formiche. Cites China Analyst Bryce Barros and Research Assistant Etienne Soula

Beijing May Have Scuppered Taiwan’s Vaccine Roll-Out, Hints Health Minister, Newsweek. Comments from China Analyst Bryce Barros

The Domestic Security Grey Zone: Navigating the Space Between Foreign Influence and Foreign Interference, The National Security College. Written by Non-resident Fellow Katherine Mansted

Newsletter, Votebeat. Comments from Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine

Axios China, Axios. Cites ASD’s Authoritarian Influence Tracker

In Washington herrscht Frustration – US-Präsident Biden enttäuscht von Europas Haltung zu China, Handelsblatt. Comments from Emerging Technologies Fellow Lindsay Gorman

New Frontiers for Security Cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. Chapter written by Co-director Zack Cooper

A Bipartisan Plan to Combat Global Corruption, Transparency International. Cites Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph

Quote of the Week

“We must shape the rules that will govern the advance of technologies and the norms of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, so they are used to lift people up, not used to pin them down.”

  • President Joe Biden said at the Munich Security Conference on February 19.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.