Our Take

Rather than question the legitimacy of future elections, pro-democracy supporters should focus on how to ensure the successful counting of ballots and certification of elections going forward, Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine argues in Politico.

The Summit for Democracy’s momentum has stalled, leaving an opening for autocrats. Summit countries must get to work by publishing innovative commitments that hold governments accountable and prioritize reform, Director Laura Thornton and International IDEA’s Annika Silva-Leander write.

Beijing sees the Olympics as a way to convince the world that its authoritarian model works, Program Assistant Krystyna Sikora and Research Analyst Etienne Soula write in a Hamilton analysis blog post.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media last week focused on three main topics:

  • Ukraine: Kremlin-linked accounts continued to argue that Western countries “need a war,” that NATO is sending “weapons to neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” and that Ukraine is preparing a large-scale provocation.
  • Freedom Convoy: Russia state media presented Canada’s trucker protest as a global phenomenon by showcasing similar demonstrations in places like France, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.
  • Olympics: Moscow-backed outlets floated conspiracies around the news that a 15-year-old Russian skater had tested positive for a banned substance, including one claim that Western intelligence agencies manipulated the drug test.

Chinese diplomats and state media last week largely focused on two topics:

  • Olympics: Chinese propagandists highlighted the success of Chinese Olympic athletes, particularly Eileen Gu, and pushed back against claims that Beijing included a Uyghur athlete as an Olympic torchbearer to whitewash human rights abuses against Uyghurs.
  • Ukraine: Chinese officials struck a cautious tone when discussing Ukraine and largely avoided mentioning the country on Twitter, but Beijing-linked media embraced Russia’s position in the conflict.

Read the full report here.

News and Commentary

Cyberattacks hit Ukrainian government websites: Cyberattacks took down the websites of multiple Ukrainian government agencies, including the Defense Ministry, as well as the websites of two major banks in the country, Ukrainian officials said on Thursday. Research Assistant Joseph Bodnar said, “While Ukraine hasn’t officially blamed Russia, this is straight out of the Kremlin’s playbook. Russia used similar cyberattacks ahead of its invasion of Georgia in 2008 and during the annexation of Crimea in 2014. That doesn’t mean what we’re seeing now is a Russian declaration of war. But it looks like Moscow is using its cyber capabilities to escalate tension and undermine confidence in the Ukrainian government’s ability to defend itself.” 

Pro-China accounts co-opt human rights hashtag: In the lead up to the Olympics, pro-Beijing accounts flooded Twitter with the hashtag #GenocideGames – posting it more than 132,000 times – in an effort to dilute the hashtag’s power to galvanize criticism of China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer told the Dispatch: “The Chinese government and its network of online influencers have an established track record of trying to flood Western social media platforms with content meant to drown out or divert attention away from criticism of China’s human rights record. With all eyes on China during the Winter Games, it’s unsurprising that pro-Beijing accounts have aggressively tried to hijack a hashtag campaign meant to focus global attention on abuses in Xinjiang rather than China’s hosting of the games.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a “Shields Up” alert that recommends all U.S. organizations protect against possible Russian cyberattacks amid rising tension in Ukraine.
  • The White House urged members of the U.S. chip industry to diversify their supply chains in case Russia retaliates against potential U.S. export controls.
  • The European Union Data Protection Supervisor recommended a ban on the Israeli firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware tool in response to concerns over human rights abuse allegations.
  • The Australian federal police commissioner raised concerns over the threat of disinformation and foreign interference, which could incite violence ahead of upcoming federal elections.
  • A South Korea-based cybersecurity firm suspects that the North Korean hacking group Gumsong 121 has been sending phishing emails impersonating South Korea’s National Election Commission.
  • Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson asked the state’s attorney general and police to investigate reports that an individual gained unauthorized access to voting equipment.

ASD in the News

US accuses financial website of spreading Russian propaganda. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in AP

As Russia threatens Ukraine, the U.S. ‘pre-bunks’ Russian propaganda. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in NPR

NATO allies repeatedly quote secret intelligence in efforts to disrupt the Kremlin’s next move. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina interviewed on BBC

The West is a player in the Ukraine information war. Unlike Russia, it has to convince the public. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in CNN

Cyber tensions rise as West fears invasion of Ukraine. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in  POLITICO EU

Russia Has Taken Over Spanish-Language Airwaves on Ukraine. Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in Foreign Policy

How to support Ukraine’s fight against Russian disinformation? Senior Fellow Bret Schafer quoted in VOA Russian Service

China warns of risk of military conflict with US over Taiwan. Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in The Financial Times

US to strengthen its role in Indo-Pacific region under new broad strategy. Co-Director Zack Cooper quoted in The Straits Times

The next election isn’t only about Democrats and Republicans. It’s about democracy. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine wrote in the The Idaho Statesman

Republican Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters announces run for Colorado secretary of state. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in The Fort Morgan Times

Quote of the Week

“Let us not underestimate the strength of democracy. But let us also not underestimate the challenges it faces.”

  • German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on February 13, 2022.
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.