Our Take

ICYMI, we hosted an event on tackling information manipulation in Europe with Hybrid Centre of Excellence Director Teija Tiilikainen, ASD Director Laura Thornton, and ASD Senior Fellow Bret Schafer. One big takeaway: Building resilience to information manipulation requires a whole-of-society approach. Watch the recording here

The Pandora Papers show how Russia has weaponized globalization to prop up the Kremlin’s allies at home and abroad. The U.S. Treasury can fight back by imposing anti-money laundering rules on professional enablers, Malign Finance Fellow Josh Rudolph said on the Power Vertical.

To get the United States back on track in Asia, the Biden administration and Congress must prioritize three urgent course corrections: re-centering U.S. strategy on the region as a whole, rather than on China; embracing a positive regional economic agenda; and significantly increasing diplomatic and military resources devoted to the region, Co-Director Zack Cooper and Adam P. Liff write in a new AEI report.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian officials and state-backed media last week focused on two main topics:

  • Europe’s gas crisis: Russian diplomats and state-controlled outlets argued that the Kremlin did not weaponize its gas reserves to cause Europe’s energy crisis. They also presented Nord Stream 2 as the means to stabilize the gas market.
  • U.S. criticism: Moscow-linked Twitter highlighted the United States’ struggles with racism and pandemic-related supply chain challenges. Sputnik News used #EmptyShelvesJoe to criticize President Biden’s management of the economy.

Chinese officials and state-funded media last week focused on the following subjects: 

  • LinkedIn: Chinese state-backed media minimized LinkedIn’s decision to remove social features from its app in China. They denounced Western outlets for reporting that Chinese government pressure drove LinkedIn to restructure its app.  
  • Liars for hire: Chinese diplomats and state media accused various critics of the Chinese Communist Party of lying in exchange for money. Xinhua and People’s Daily circulated a Zimbabwean report claiming that the U.S. embassy was paying reporters to dig up dirt on China.  
  • Tensions with India: Chinese state media employees shared videos of captured Indian soldiers, while China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian praised the “great importance” of China-Pakistan ties.

Iranian officials and state-managed outlets last week focused on two primary topics:

  • Beirut shooting: Tehran-linked media heavily covered a shooting in Beirut that targeted supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement. Press TV claimed that one perpetrator was an employee of the U.S. embassy in Beirut.
  • Violence in Afghanistan: Iranian state-funded media reported on a series of IS-K attacks against Afghanistan’s Shiite minority, at times amplifying Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks, which blamed the United States for tense conditions in Afghanistan. 

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Biden’s Summit for Democracy to include not-so-democratic countries: U.S. President Joe Biden will invite leaders from more than 100 countriesincluding those with questionable democratic credentialsto a Summit for Democracy, which aims to counter autocratic advances by reinvigorating democratic commitments and cooperation. ASD Director Laura Thornton said, “While this ‘big-tent’ approach is likely aimed at encouraging these slipping countries back on track, organizers must guard against actually undermining the very goal of the summit by fueling and legitimizing leaders who are chipping away at democracy. Seats should also be included for opposition leaders, civil society activists, and journalists.” 

LinkedIn ends social media service in China: On October 15, LinkedIn, the last major U.S. social media network operating in China, announced it will end the platform’s professional networking service and offer a new app focused only on job postings in China, citing “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements.” ASD China Analyst Bryce Barros told the Dispatch, “LinkedIn’s decision to create a new app for use within China accelerated the bifurcation of tech and apps between the United States and China, as well as the divergence of norms and governance surrounding cyberspace between the two countries. The Chinese government’s recent actions demonstrate how it exploits data, including on LinkedIn, for geopolitical goals.”

Russian state media outlets spend millions to influence Americans: Russian state-backed outlets have spent more than $146 million on information operations targeting the United States since 2016, an OpenSecrets analysis of Foreign Agent Registration Act records reveals—but that doesn’t include spending by undisclosed Russian media websites. ASD Senior Fellow Bret Schafer said, “The spending Russian state media disclosed to FARA represents a tiny fraction of the Kremlin’s investment in information operations targeting Americans, as it not only does not include covert manipulation efforts, but it also likely does not include spending on digital propaganda channels accessible to Americans but operated in other countries. Still, the report highlights the disparity between what Russia spends to influence Americans versus what the United States spends to influence Russians.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • The United States convened an international summit on combating ransomware, which resulted in more than 30 countries committing to improve cyber resiliency, cryptocurrency regulations, and diplomatic coordination.
  • In an effort to curtail leaks, Facebook told employees that it is limiting who can view and participate in some internal online discussion groups focused on platform safety and protecting elections. 
  • A Georgia judge dismissed a lawsuit against members of Fulton County’s election board  alleging that fraudulent mail-in ballots were cast during the 2020 presidential election. 
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers announced a new bill that would establish an interagency task force aimed at responding to China’s economic coercion tactics.
  • Ransomware victims paid $590 million to their attackers during the first six months of 2021, which is almost double the total for 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department found.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s former lead election security official recommended upgrading physical safety for election officials, reorganizing the Election Assistance Commission, and mandating cyber incident disclosures to protect the ballot in future elections.

ASD in the News

Quote of the Week

“A resilient society is a society that safeguards human rights and democratic values.” 

  • European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats Director Teija Tiilikainen said during an ASD event on tackling information threats in Europe on October 14, 2021.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.