Our Take

The EU should extend harsh sanctions to most or all of the largest Russian banks, including the one that plays a central role in Russia’s financial system, Sberbank, Non-Resident Fellow Josh Kirschenbaum and Nicolas Veron argue for the Peterson Institute for International Economics. 

Russia may be losing the information war in the transatlantic space, but that’s not necessarily the case in the Global South, where engagement with Russian state media outlets’ social media accounts is on the rise, Senior Fellow Bret Schafer said on EU Now.

The United States should establish an interagency group to respond to China’s economic coercion, China Affairs Analyst Bryce Barros and Mary Ogbuehi write in an ASD blog post. 

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Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

Russian diplomats and state media focused on three main narratives on the war in Ukraine:

  • Mariupol: Kremlin-linked accounts mentioned “Mariupol” in nearly 500 tweets as they blamed Ukrainian Nazis and their Western backers for war crimes committed in the city.
  • Bioweapons: Russian officials said that the United States had tested dangerous biological drugs on patients from a Ukrainian psychiatric ward, and the Kremlin accused Germany of being involved with bioweapon laboratories in Ukraine.
  • Moskva: Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that its warship, known as the Moskva, capsized but insisted the cruiser was overwhelmed by a storm and damage sustained during a fire rather than Ukrainian missiles. 

Chinese diplomats and state media focused on three main topics:

  • Covid-19: Chinese state-affiliated accounts tried to deflect growing criticism of the government-imposed covid-19 lockdown in Shanghai by depicting the government’s response as competent and necessary.
  • NATO: Official Chinese sources continued to amplify Russian narratives about Ukraine, with Beijing-linked accounts aiming their harshest criticism at NATO, which ranked among the ten most used key phrases and hashtags.
  • Solomon Islands: Chinese interlocutors blasted U.S. opposition to China’s announced security pact with the Solomon Islands, saying the United States is in security pacts and being hypocritical.  

Read the full report here

French Election Dashboard Analysis

Foreign actors focused on the following topics last week: 

  • Russia: The Russian Embassy in Paris focused on the war in Ukraine, authoring nine of the ten top tweets by French-language Russian accounts, while Russian state media showed a renewed willingness to weigh in on domestic French issues following Marine Le Pen’s advancement to the second round of the presidential election. 
  • China: The Chinese Embassy in France kept a low-profile after quoting Russian conspiracy theories the week prior. French-language Chinese state media outlets, however, relayed Moscow’s threats directed at countries considering joining NATO and minimized Russian losses in Ukraine.  
  • Qatar: AJ+ Français received significantly higher engagement via its content highlighting corporate malfeasance in Africa or violence against Palestinians, African-Americans, and French Muslims than it did in its coverage of the French presidential race.    

Try out the French Election Dashboard here

News and Commentary

GOP lawmakers push election bills requiring paper records: In response to false claims around the 2020 presidential election, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee and other states are considering bills that would require a paper record of every vote cast to ensure disputed results can be verified—a move that election experts have been calling for for years. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine told the Dispatch, While their reasoning may be misguided, replacing any voting system that does not produce a paper record of the vote is good for election integrity. A voter-verifiable paper record of each vote can provide voters with confidence that any counting error or malicious attack will not change the outcome of an election. Replacing paperless voting systems makes it harder for malign actors hell-bent on undermining U.S. democracy to distort any minor change or error during vote counting and falsely claim that an election was stolen.”

DOJ charges Russians for running a foreign influence network: On April 14, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Russian legislator Aleksandr Babakov and two staffers for allegedly operating an international disinformation and foreign influence network that targeted U.S. citizens, including members of Congress, to advance Russian interests from 2012 to 2017. Deputy Director David Salvo said, “The Russian government’s history of using corrupt money to attempt to interfere in the political system of democratic countries is well documented. This is yet another node on their timeline of activity.”

In Case You Missed It 

  • Governments in at least 45 countriesboth authoritarian and democratichave used Israeli firm NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware to collect real-time surveillance on phones, The New Yorker found
  • Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok created a censored version of its app that prevents Russian users from seeing posts from outside of the country, including Ukraine, while allowing pro-war propaganda. 
  • Many Western digital marketing and social analytics services have stopped working with Russian state media, limiting the ability of Kremlin-linked outlets to target specific audiences. 
  • Facebook’s content moderation policies have reduced the visibility of pages for some independent journalists who cover wars in autocratic countries, Coda Story found.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department urged banks and other financial institutions to focus on tracking illicit assets from corrupt foreign actors with a focus on Russia.
  • U.S. officials discovered a sophisticated malware toolkit, known as Pipedream, which is designed to target industrial control systems like liquified natural gas facilities. 

ASD in the News

Russia Wages Social-Media Campaign to Label Bucha Massacre a Hoax. ASD research covered in Bloomberg

Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 13. ASD research cited in VOA

Why France reports election results faster than the US. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Politifact

Digital war: How real-time images from Ukraine impact U.S. democracy. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in Spectrum News

France reports election results faster than the US. Here’s why. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in Poynter

Quote of the Week

We’re not just observers cheering for Ukraine here. This is about democracy across Europe and stopping an autocracy.” 

  • Former commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe Ret. Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges said on Face the Nation on April 17, 2022.

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