Announcement

We’ve just launched the Yandex Dashboard, a tool that catalogs the information and sources Russian speakers in Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Poland, and Estonia encounter as part of their news consumption on Yandex. Try it out here.

Our Take

More than a year and a half after the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol will hold its first public hearing this Thursday. Ahead of the hearing, ASD experts answer questions about January 6th, the Big Lie, and how they are impacting U.S. democracy.  

Russia uses the leading Russian-language search engine, Yandex, to spread propaganda about Ukraine, Deputy Director David Salvo explains in his analysis of data from our new Yandex Dashboard

Pennsylvania election officials’ inability to pre-process all of the state’s mail ballots by election night can lead to delayed results and, ultimately, conspiracies and threats against election workers, Seth Bluestein, city commissioner for the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Board of Elections, explains in the latest episode of ASD’s Ballots and Bagels: Conversations with Trusted Election Sources. Read our takeaways here and listen to the full interview here.

Follow us on Twitter for more quick takes.

Hamilton 2.0 Analysis

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

  • U.S. missiles: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threat that Russia would hit targets in Ukraine “that we have not yet attacked” if Kyiv receives long-range missiles from the United States capped a week of propaganda on the topic, during which time Russian messengers claimed Ukraine was planning to hit Russia with U.S. weapons and said Russia would “strike the centres where these criminal decisions are made.”
  • Food crisis: Russian diplomats and state media continued to deny responsibility for a global food crisis that experts say was sparked by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, instead blaming the shortage on the Covid-19 pandemic, a Western media stunt, and Ukraine.
  • Energy bans: Kremlin-affiliated accounts kept up their propaganda push against Western bans on Russian energy exports, arguing that the EU’s embargo will cause Europe’s economy to collapse, claiming the ban would cause an energy shortage in Asia, and asserting the United States is trying to capitalize on the crisis. Russian officials also said their oil and gas exports would increase this year,

Chinese diplomats and state media highlighted three narratives last week: 

  • Xinjiang: Chinese diplomats and state media pushed back on international criticism following the UN high commissioner for human rights’ visit to Xinjiang, calling the criticism “hysterical,” describing China’s detractors as “immoral and hypocritical,” and repeating the claim that “the allegation of genocide in Xinjiang is the lie of the century.”
  • U.S. criticism: China’s propagandists sought to distract from Xinjiang by suggesting that U.S. treatment of Native Americans was far worse than China’s treatment of Uyghurs; drawing attention to racism in the United States; and highlighting supposed hypocrisy in the United States’ defense of democratic ideals.
  • Tiananmen Square: China’s messengers mostly ignored the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre; however, one commentator argued that it was a “watershed” moment that allowed China to grow “into a new super power.”

Read the full report here. 

News and Commentary

Zelensky calls for Big Tech to combat Russian censorship: In an exclusive interview with Wired, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized the importance of dismantling the Kremlin’s information iron curtain and urged social media companies to find creative ways to share the truth about the war with Russian citizens. Deputy Director David Salvo told the Dispatch,Ultimately, the responsibility for dismantling an information iron curtain in Russia will have to fall on Russians’ shoulders, fairly or not. That said, there must be ways to penetrate the increasingly restricted Russian information space. Even Russia’s primary search engine, Yandex, occasionally yields top results that openly defy the Kremlin’s censorship laws and propaganda on the war in Ukraine. Tech companies, civil society, and Western governments all need to be involved in the effort to get more unbiased information in front of Russian citizens.”

U.S. sanctions yacht company linked to Putin and Russian oligarchs: On June 2, the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled new sanctions against Russia that target the yacht management company Imperial Yachts and its owners for their role in enriching Russian elites and President Vladimir Putin. Non-Resident Fellow Joshua Kirschenbaum said, “We should expect more designations of enablers of Russian elites around the world. In any sanctions program, effective pressure requires going after those assisting the original sanctions target. Given the huge offshore holdings of wealthy Russians, this will be a particularly target-rich environment.”

China-linked Twitter accounts target female journalists: Over 400 Twitter accounts previously linked to the Chinese government are coordinating an online harassment campaign targeting female journalists of Chinese descent that work for major Western media outlets to silence criticism of Beijing abroad. Junior Fellow Elen Aghekyan said, “Many journalists have faced online harassment in the past in connection to their coverage of China, including from Chinese government officials who aim to control perspectives on China abroad. But this recent report uncovers coordination and scale that has not been documented before. Targeting journalists in this way creates personal and professional risks that cannot be overstated—particularly when there is a pronounced gender dimension to a harassment campaign.”

In Case You Missed It   

  • More than a dozen candidates are running in secretary of state races in some key states as part of the America First slate, a group that falsely denies the outcome of the 2020 election. 
  • Autocratic governments are increasingly disregarding U.S. laws to harass and silence dissidents in the United States, a new Freedom House report found.
  • Michigan State Police expanded their probe into Trump allies’ attempts to illegally breach voting systems to at least three towns and one county.
  • Hackers targeted Russia’s Ministry of Construction, Housing, and Utilities website, causing an internet search for the site to generate a “Glory to Ukraine” sign in Ukrainian. 
  • Technology firm Sandvine pulled out of Russia amid increasing U.S. and EU concerns that its deep packet inspection equipment could be used to enable online censorship.
  • The United States is set to impose a ban on imports of goods from Xinjiang when the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act becomes enforceable in late June.

ASD in the News

Recount report co-author says McCormick has ‘uphill battle’ to surpass Oz in Senate primary race. Elections Integrity Fellow David Levine quoted in PennLive

Asia may provide market for Russian oil after EU ban. Senior Fellow Kristine Berzina quoted in The Hill

In the media. ASD’s Yandex Dashboard highlighted in Protocol

Yandex Dashboard, First Search Project, Launched by the Alliance for Securing Democracy. Deputy Director Dave Salvo quoted in Search & Performance Marketing Daily

Quote of the Week

“As illiberal forces use new tools and technologies to spread their influence, we need to supplement those tools. We need to reinvent our playbook.”

  • USAID Administrator Samantha Power said during a major address on the future of democracy at Freedom House on June 7, 2022. 
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The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.